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Mar 22, 2006
Focus: Health
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Location: United States
Raw food diet: half-baked idea for kids?
http://www.azcentral.com/health/kids/articles/0318rawfoods.html
Columbia News Service
Mar. 19, 2006 06:15 PM NEW YORK -- At mealtime, the Talifero family's kitchen is abuzz with the sounds of the blender, juicer and nut grinder, but there's no whir of a microwave or heat from a stove.

Raven, 11, and Jome, 8, may be lunching on spaghetti made of spirals of raw cut zucchini with a sauce of avocado, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil and salt. Shale, 5, has simpler tastes, preferring plain fruit or whole avocado. Adagio, at 21 months, is fed primarily breast milk, nut milks and mashed fruits and vegetables. But while their home is filled with a brightly colored raw bounty, including desserts made of crushed nuts, blended fruits and raw honey[SIC], there is no cooked food to be found.

Jinjee and Storm Talifero have chosen a raw, or "live foods," diet for their Pine Mountain Club home in California's Los Padres National Forest. They say that their children are thriving without meat, dairy, cooked, canned or frozen foods.

"A few years ago at a party, Raven said she didn't want to be all raw anymore," recalled her mother, Jinjee, 38. "So we gave her a choice and said, 'OK, you can go ahead and eat whatever you want.' She loaded up her plate with bread, pastries and cupcakes. But two weeks later she decided that she wanted to eat raw again."

The Taliferos, who sell their eBooks, documentary, workout DVD, music CDs and digital magazines on their Web site, thegardendiet.com, want to help other families go raw. By ignoring the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food pyramid, which includes cooked grains and beans, dairy products and other sources of animal protein, they believe they can protect their children from diseases ranging from the common cold to diabetes and cancer.

Although it is difficult to estimate the number of children being raised on a raw diet, the Vegetarian Resource Group, a national meat-free advocacy organization, said that based on its 2005 Internet survey results, the United States has more than 450,000 vegans (those who abstain from meat, dairy and eggs) between the ages of 8 and 18. Talifero estimates that one in 10 of those follow a primarily raw diet, adding that her family's Web site receives about 1,500 hits a day.

The Taliferos and other raw families expressed support for Lamoy and Joseph Andressohn, a Florida couple put under legal scrutiny after the 2003 death of their 6-month-old daughter, Woyah, who was born with DiGeorge Syndrome and fed a diet of coconut milk and wheat grass. The Andressohns were acquitted on manslaughter charges in November 2005 but were given suspended sentences and probation on charges of neglect, and have appealed.

"It is pretty sad that people's children can be taken away if they are sick on the raw vegan diet, but obese children who get sick on a standard American diet won't be taken away," said Talifero, whose children see a doctor for regular checkups.

In order to combat some of the concerns that followed the Andressohn case, the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, a retreat for raw food education in Patagonia, Ariz., is studying the impact of such diets on babies and children.

Dr. Gabriel Cousens, the founder and director of the center, created a raw baby formula and is conducting a long-term study of the height, weight and health histories of babies fed all-raw diets. Educational manager Susan Miller-Madeley, who piloted the study, said she was surprised to find that some parents were nervous about the consequences of including their children in the study in the wake of the Andressohn case.

"There really is a need for more education around raw food diets," Miller-Madeley said. "Parents are definitely getting intimidated because of lack of information. There are some things that your baby will need supplements for, and it is not that you can go by the seat of your pants."

Many in the mainstream medical establishment have been critical of the diet.

"Children fed raw foods at weaning are likely to develop protein malnutrition and iron deficiency," said Dr. Robert Karp, a professor of pediatrics at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center. "These conditions are precursors to developmental delay and a lifelong learning deficit."

Even some vegetarian doctors have questioned the necessity to go all raw. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, whose recent book "Disease-Proof Your Child" suggests that parents can prevent childhood illnesses through diet, said he did not necessarily mean no cooking.

"These people have their heads buried in the broccoli," Fuhrman said of devotees of a strictly raw regimen. "Raw food should be mostly what we eat, but clearly if you are raising your child on an all-raw food diet, there may not be enough vitamin B12, enough vitamin D and enough calories." Fuhrman fed his own four children raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, beans and occasionally eggs.

But a 2005 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found no major deficiencies when comparing the bone health of adults on raw diets with those who ate a typical cooked diet. While the raw food group had lower weights and bone mass, they had normal vitamin D levels.

Some raw food families say they could not reap the same health benefits from eating cooked foods. After Victoria Boutenko and her husband, Igor, emigrated from Russia to Ashland, Ore., they suffered from arrhythmia and hyperthyroid conditions. In 1994 the parents turned to an all-raw diet for themselves and their diabetic son, Sergei, then 10, and asthmatic daughter, Valya, then 9.

"Sergei's blood stabilized right away and Valya stopped having asthma attacks," said Boutenko, 50. Since that time, she and her family have stayed on a raw regimen and have remained free of disease, she said.

"Once in a while I would have panic attacks, worrying if they were missing nutrients," Boutenko said. "But my other choice was asthma and diabetes, so we didn't really have a choice."
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Posted: Mar 22, 2006 10:04am

 

 
 
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