Killing kids with quackery


Homebirth kills babies; pressure to exclusively breastfeed injures and kills babies and mothers; anti-vaccine advocacy kills children of all ages. All three are part of the larger societal trend of killing kids with quackery.

Of course no parent intends to maim or kill her child by embracing quackery; in general “natural” parents are busily preening before their peers and may even believe (based on the nonsense they’ve absorbed) that they are making healthy choices. However, as the piece Gluten-free baby: When parents ignore science in Macleans makes clear, children are being harmed by their parents “natural” choices.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Quackery kills kids with fad diets, foolish joint manipulations and ridiculous “natural remedies.”[/pullquote]


Nova had plans to her raise her son Zion on a vegan diet—and she had thousands of Instagram followers giving her plenty of love throughout her journey. But trouble struck when Zion’s teeth started to come in. One tooth, she recalls, had started to crumble apart by his first birthday. “It happened so fast,” Nova says. “His teeth are just really weak.”

But crumbling teeth are the least of it.

In Mississauga, Ont., in 2011, two-year-old Matinah Hosannah died of complications from asthma and severe malnutrition stemming from a vegan diet lacking in vitamin D and B12.


A similar tragic outcome occurred in 2012 with 19-month old Ezekiel Stephan of Cardston County, Alta. His parents diagnosed their toddler’s meningitis as croup and treated it with natural remedies … After Ezekiel arrived at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary with abnormal breathing, he was quickly put on life support, but died within two days.

As a nutritionist at Sick Kids Hospital explains, she has seen children in her clinic:

… with everything from cognitive delays to rickets, a softening of the bones due to lack of vitamin D or calcium. One family, she remembers, had a diet that encompassed basically fruit, nuts, seeds and homemade almond milk—and the child came in with vitamin D deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, and, well, “the list was endless.”

What’s going on here?

…[T]here is the trend toward vilifying or fetishizing components of food, be it sugar, fat, gluten, salt or protein. Consider the gluten-free boom: Despite the fact that only an estimated one per cent of Americans lives with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that would require a gluten-free diet, a 2015 survey found about one of every five Americans actively choose to eat gluten-free foods. Meanwhile the spike in protein consumption is so far-reaching that General Mills created a “Cheerios Protein.”

There is undoubtedly no “Cheerios Protein” in the wild and that reflects the conceit that natural parenting has anything to do with parenting in nature. It doesn’t.

If anyone wants to see what living on natural medicine looks like, [pediatrician] Michael Rieder suggests, they should go to Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is about as natural as you’re going to get in …” For every 10 children born in Afghanistan today, odds are one of them won’t see their fifth birthday. “Most of them die before they turn one and most of them die from infection,” Rieder says. “That’s what happens when you don’t have vaccination or antibiotics.”

Anyone with least bit of scientific knowledge would realize that but many “natural” parents are pretty limited when it comes to science.

We’re slipping into this ‘all knowledge is relative’ dark age,” says Caulfield [a professor of law and public health]. “You don’t see this in other areas of science. We don’t have alternative physics or people who believe there’s a natural healing force that can be utilized to build bridges. But in health, we have this huge tolerance for this alternative, non-scientific perspective.”

But all knowledge is not relative. There’s actual knowledge and pseudo-knowledge, the fake news equivalent of knowledge. Much of what passes for “knowledge” in the world of food fetishism, child chiropractic and naturopathy is is fake, entirely made up to boost the economic fortunes of quacks.

Sadly, a certain kind of parent is particularly gullible when it comes to this kind of fake knowledge. Not only do they fail to understand science; they fail to understand that parenting is not an opportunity to burnish your self-image vis a vis other parents. Those who eagerly purchase quackery imagine themselves to be smarter than other parents when the reality is that they are as dumb as rocks, at least when it comes to child health.

The truth is that children have never been healthier. Rather than dying in droves from infection, starvation and nutritional deficiencies, they have begun to suffer from diseases of excess like obesity and type 2 diabetes. The solution, of course, it to cut back on excess. It is not to embrace unrestrained infectious disease by refusing to vaccinate, nutritional deficiencies caused by food fetishism; or quackery like chiropractic and naturopathy.

Quackery kills kids and the only people who appear to be unaware of that are those parents torturing their children with fad diets, foolish joint manipulations and ridiculous “natural remedies.” They proudly imagine themselves to be educated but they are merely wallowing in their own ignorance while their children suffer.