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Sunday November 19, 2017

A presiding judge is scheduled to deliver his final ruling this week in the tragic case of a Belgian couple accused of inadvertantly starving their 7-month-old baby to death in 2014 by insisting he be fed only a gluten-free diet of quinoa milk that was insufficient to meet his nutritional needs. The mother and father reportedly operated a natural food store in their home town near Antwerp. A July 2016 Washington Post story relayed a similar incident in which an Italian couple lost custody of their 14-month-old son, following emergency surgery to repair a heart birth defect aggravated by low calcium levels. The cause of the calcium deficiency was found to be his parents keeping the child on a strict vegan diet since birth without additional supplements. According to the Post, it was the third case of a child in Italy being hospitalized as a result of a vegan diet.

America and the West do have diets linked to diabetes, which is on the increase (even as some public-health experts caution that the increase could be a statistical mirage caused not by a rise in the number of people getting the disease but in the number of people who are successfully living longer with it.) But those heartbreaking cases with children reveal a dirty secret about today's fashionably healthy eating that's so vocally advocated for by those like Berkeley journalism professor and self-styled food authority Michael Pollan. So-called healthy eating may be posing its own new set of risks. In some cases, that means bringing back diseases we thought we had beaten in the past. Consider:

Goiter. University of Michigan doctors report in the journal Pediatrics that the trend toward low- or no-dairy, gluten-free and salt-free diets could be bringing back rarely seen cases of low-thyroid function and even goiter caused by iodine deficiency. Rare in the United States largely because of the effectiveness of past efforts to supplement foods, particularly table salt, with iodine, severe food restriction associated with these new dietary fashions have resulted in some cases of entirely preventable and reversible iodine deficiency in children. The authors recommended children on those diets be tested regularly for thyroid function.

Vegan-associated heart disease. Without access to meat, fish and dairy, vegetarians generally suffer a high prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to another study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. And although vegetarians tend to have a better heart-health profile than meat-eaters in the traditional measures of blood cholesterol, blood sugar, high blood pressure and weight, they also may be developing their own new set of heart and blood-circulation issues caused by that B12 deficiency. The study found that the vast majority of reports studied showed vegetarians were at a deficiency level that put them at a 20 percent or higher risk of heart attack, stroke or other circulatory problems. Vitamin B12 deficiency may be cancelling out the cardiovascular disease prevention benefits of vegetarian diets, the study author suggests. Other research has suggested that although vegetarian advocates have argued vegetarian diets are sufficient when natural deficiencies are carefully managed, the question of whether vegetarians can really overcome the negative health effects of the lifestyle's inherent B12 deficiency is far from clear or settled.

Skim-milk related metabolic disease. For decades, government health advisors told millions to cut whole milk from their diets in favor of skim. School lunch programs followed dutifully, dumping whole milk in favor of low- and no-fat, often flavored with added sugars to increase palatability and lure kids back to drinking it. Could it all have been a mistake? That reality may be the conclusion of several recent studies looking at large populatons to study possible links between full-fat dairy consumption, weight and risk of disease. In a new study in the medical journal Circulation, Tufts University epidemiologist  Dariush Mozaffarian analyzed blood samples of 3,333 adults over a period of 15 years. Mozaffarian and colleagues tested the samples for three compounds that indicated full-fat dairy consumption, in order to get around the notorious problem with similar studies of simply asking people to remember what they ate and drank. When they looked at the actual indicators of fat consumption based on the blood tests, they found subjects with the higher levels of the full-fat compounds on average were 46 percent less likely to get diabetes than people with lower levels. Why the seemingly paradoxical result occured is uncertain, he reports, although he theorizes natural trans fat in the high-fat dairy products may improve the body's ability to use insulin more efficiently in managing blood sugar. Another new study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that diets recommending low-fat and fat-free dairy foods as well as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds and legumes in order to combat high blood pressure can can be modified to include whole milk, yogurt and cheese without sacrificing health benefits. In the randomized trial, researchers modified those meal plans, which despite their health benefits often suffer from non-compliance with consumers, by replacing fat-free and low-fat dairy foods with whole-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, in conjunction with a 12 percent reduction in simple sugars from fruit juices. The results of the study showed blood pressure was similarly improved when participants followed the standard or the whole-fat dairy eating plan, compared with the control diet. In addition, the whole-fat dairy eating plan did not increase total cholesterol or LDL-C levels, despite a 6 percent higher saturated fat intake than the standard. A separate study published in the American Journal of Nutrition, compared the effects of full-fat and low-fat dairy on obesity and found that among more than 18,000 women, those who consumed the most high-fat dairy products lowered their risk of being overweight or obese by 8 percent. “I think these findings together with those from other studies do call for a change in the policy of recommending only low-fat dairy products,” Tuft's Mozaffarian told TIME magazine. “There is no prospective human evidence that people who eat low-fat dairy do better than people who eat whole-fat dairy.”

Cut the fruit juice. Fruit juice seemed to be one no-pain way to get kids to eat healthier, consume more natural sources of vitamins and calcium and provide other health benefits. That's why pediatricians typically recommended them as a good source of vitamin C and water for infants and young children as their diets warmed up to solid foods. No more. Now, those same pediatricians warned in May to cut it out completely for babies under 6 months old, warning it could reduce their necessary consumption of protein, fat and several vitamins and minerals critical for growth and development. And although allowable, the pediatricians also encouraged parents to cut out the juice for the first year, for the same reasons. Kids from a year to 6 years old should get no more than 4 to 6 ounces daily, to avoid gastrointestinal issues as well as tooth decay. Tooth decay is another known problem with vegetarian diets, because of their higher consumption of fruits and lower likelihood to use a toothpaste with fluoride in it.

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