Earlier this year, the Belgium Academy of Medicine gave an opinion that vegan diets were dangerous for pregnant and lactating women as well as for children in the growth phase.
This opinion contradicts many other international nutrition organisations, including the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which state that vegan diets are healthy and nutritionally adequate and are appropriate for all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy and childhood.
To counter the Belgian report, more than 100 doctors and scientists have signed a detailed response which analyses the references, contradicting the alarmist conclusions of the Academy. A number of Australia doctors have also signed the response.
The group found that the opinion of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium (RAMB) is unfounded and constitutes misinformation. It concluded that a well-planned and balanced vegan diet is beneficial for health at all stages of life.
The group analysed in detail the studies used by the RAMB in its report against vegan diets. They found that the sources cited by the academy, which are sometimes out of scope, contradict its own conclusions. Among the more than 40 references used by the RAMB, only two German sources, more reserved, encourage caution and regular follow-up of patients following a vegan diet. Surprisingly, the other sources cited by the RAMB actually conclude that a well-planned and balanced vegan diet is beneficial for health at all stages of life.
As part of an extensive literature review, the group added nearly 40 references that were neglected by the RAMB. The conclusions addressed to the academy are detailed in an 12-page report, drawn from a total of 83 sources. The full report can be found here: www.reponseARMB.com.
The group also regrets the lack of education and knowledge on nutrition issues within the medical community, particularly on plant-based nutrition. This is evidenced by an American study that highlights significant gaps in nutritional education for cardiologists, and by a study conducted by the University of Milan within a large sample of health professionals.
According to spokespersons of the collective, Dr Lamprini Risos and Dr Catherine Devillers, "We created this group to restore scientific truth as no vegan structure existed in Belgium. In medicine, we rely on the recommendations of scientific societies, which in turn are based on high quality epidemiological literature. However, the RAMB rejects the official positions of international scientific associations which act as authorities in the field of nutrition. The first RAMB report only cited 13 references. It was only after receiving criticism from international scientific societies that it published a clarification with an additional 30 references, but always drawing conclusions contrary to those of its sources. We have dismantled its misinterpretations step by step and added another forty or so references to enrich our report with an abundance of literature. Furthermore, the academy denies the excellent health of thousands of vegan children worldwide and focuses only on isolated cases of child neglect attributed to the vegan diet."
Being well aware of the ethical obligation to respect fundamental human rights such as patient autonomy and to prevent a paternalistic approach to medicine, the more than 100 scientists are inviting the RAMB to review its position, to promote training in plant-based nutrition among health professionals, and to be concerned about the health of children whose omnivorous diet leads to a constant increase in chronic non-communicable diseases, which are the leading cause of death in the world.