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The Paleo Solution Podcast #148

Responding to question #7, Robb Wolf said (at ~55 minutes into the above noted episode):

“An underfed baby will not have adequate..will not have normal cognitive development.  That is, ya know, the classic scenario when you’re looking at an underfed baby– which interestingly you actually see a lot of this stuff in like the vegan community, because even if the mother is breastfeeding, the mother’s breast milk is so nutrient deficient that the baby’s not doing well, and then beyond know it’s a clear indication that when the baby is, has a failure to thrive, there’s a lack of body weight gain, and there’s a lack of normal, kind of psychomotor development…”


WHAT?!  Did Robb Wolf actually say that the breast milk of vegan mothers is nutrient deficient??  Is he saying that “you see a lot of” vegan babies who are underfed…failing to thrive…lacking body weight gain…and lacking normal psychomotor development?  Seriously?

That’s a bold statement:  “You actually see a lot of this stuff in like the vegan community.”  Someone making a statement like that needs to back it up with some facts!


On 9/11/12 I went to the Robb Wolf website to ask for the reference:


“What exactly is the reference to Robb Wolf’s statement about “seeing a lot of this stuff in the vegan community?””

CHRIS WILLIAMS (from the Robb Wolf website):

“Hi Elisa, here are a couple of examples (not to mention Robb’s own experiences and things he’s seen personally)
It’s not an attack against vegans, but it’s pretty much impossible to get everything necessary for human thrival on a diet without animal products without supplementation.”


So…what do YOU think about those examples?

The first example— of “seeing a lot of this stuff in like the vegan community”– is the case of one baby who died in France.  The unfortunate 11 month-old died of a pneumonia-related illness.  She was underweight and suffering from vitamin A and vitamin B12 deficiencies.  She was reportedly fed “only on her mother’s milk.”  Her mother just happened to be vegan.

Is this a fair example?  NO!!  This baby should have been started on solid food months before.  Breast milk shouldn’t be the exclusive food source for an 11 month-old infant.  This is NOT a failure of the vegan diet.  This is a failure of parenting, in general.

The second example— of “seeing a lot of this stuff in like the vegan community”– is the case of one baby (a 5 month-old) with a vitamin B12 deficiency.  The deficiency was “due to low vitamin B12 concentrations in the maternal breast milk.”  The case did not indicate whether the mother actually came from “the vegan community” or not.

What the case did indicate was that the mother was found to have classical (Addisonian) pernicious anaemia and hypothyroidism.  Is pernicious anemia unique to vegans?  NO!!

Is this a fair example?  NO!!  Fortunately, the baby in the second case example was treated with B12 and showed a “rapid clinical and haematological improvement.”

Let’s still learn from this…

  1. Everyone needs vitamin B12.  Everyone should have vitamin B12 levels checked periodically.
  2. Vegans should supplement with a B12 supplement.
  3. Non-vegans may also need to supplement, because vitamin B12 deficiency is not only a “vegan issue.”  Besides cases of pernicious anemia, people over age 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods.


Dear Robb Wolf,
Please stop talking out of your paleo ass about vegan babies.

Dear Chris Williams,
To use your’s “pretty much impossible” to take you seriously when you provide such ridiculous examples.

Freeheel Vegan
(thriving without killing animals…with the intermittent help of a modern world supplement that is cheap and readily available 🙂 )

Mates, I think I’ve discovered a secret to really good vegan cheese.  My hunch is yet untested, but I think I’m onto something BIG!  Let me explain…

I bought some Marmite today.  I’d never tried it before, so I said “What the heck!” and grabbed a jar while shopping at my local food Co-op.

Ingredients:  Yeast Extract, Salt, Carrot & Onion Extract, Spice Extracts, enriched with B Vitamins – Niacin (B3), Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), and Cyanocobalamin (B12).

Before trying Marmite for the first time, the only thing I knew about it is that it’s very salty.  Just like umeboshi paste…a little goes a long way.  The jar states “Delicious when spread thinly on toast or for a treat try Marmite on a crispbread with cottage cheese.”

I put some on a piece of toast.  Hmm…Salty, yes.  It’s hard to describe, but I would use the words salty, smoky, and bitter.  It was okaaay…not repulsive (the Marmite website says you’re either a lover or a hater), but I felt it just needed something else in order to satisfy me.  (I think it could grow on me, though…)

Of course, I didn’t have cottage cheese in my fridge, but I did have some vegan cheese.  Last week I made homemade vegan Muenster cheese, from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (page 164), by Jo Stepaniak.


Marmite + Vegan Muenster on toast = Ding, ding, ding!  (Wedding bells!)

Marmite by’s okay.
Vegan Muenster by itself…it’s quite good.
Marmite and Muenster…better together!

The Marmite gave the Muenster that little somethin’ somethin.’  It amped up the flavor;  it gave it depth and richness.

That little “somethin’ somethin” has a name:  Umami.  It’s that little-known fifth taste sense.  It’s not just salty.  It’s not just bitter.  It’s savory but obscure.  You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know it when you taste it.  Ooo-mommy!

Apparently, it’s the glutamic acid in the Marmite that imparts the umami sense.  Glutamic acid is associated with fermented or aged foods of plant and animal origin…aged meats, fish, soy sauce, certain vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes & others), and aged cheeses.

So here’s what I’ve concluded:

Animal-based cheeses have a distinct sharpness of flavor.  It can be difficult to find this robust flavor burst in a plant-based cheese.  (Difficult, but not impossible!)

So, if glutamic acids contribute greatly to the pungent taste AND if Marmite adds that umami quality, then it only makes logical sense to add a little bit of Marmite to vegan cheese recipes.

I’m going to try that.

So…Whereas, the recipe for Muenster Uncheese calls for:


Paprika, water, agar flakes, tofu, cashews or Brazil nuts, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, tahini, onion powder, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, and ground caraway or coriander


…I’m thinking it would be wise to add a drib or a drab of Marmite, too.  Just a wee.  What do you think?

(Paprika makes Muenster Uncheese pretty and smoky)

(For more on using umami in the vegan cooking arsenal, read this blog article by Ginny Messina, the Vegan R.D.)

"There are those who are appalled because I am so vocal about injustice, yet I am equally appalled by their silence." Lujene Clark

“Every time you purchase animal products you pay assassins to murder sentient beings for you.”

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