A Better Diet For Our Children

The Gift Of A Lifetime
Charles R. Attwood, M.D., F.A.A.P.

s I drove up the coastline of Maine last Fall with my friend and co-writer, Judy Calmes, it seemed that the foliage was on fire as far as the eye could see. The leaves were changing to bright yellows, oranges, and, most spectacular of all, brilliant reds. These endless mountain forests were changing their colors just in time for our visit.

We were headed for the little coastal village of Camden, Maine for a combined social visit and several days of manuscript rewrites with my dear old friend, Dr. Benjamin Spock and his wife Mary Morgan. These changing leaves could have been a metaphor, I thought, for other great changes that would take place over the next four days in parts of one of the greatest and most influential books of the century. I was a consultant to Dr. Spock for the rewriting of the nutrition sections of his all-time best seller and classic book, Baby and Child Care, a standard for parents for the past 50 years.

For the first time ever, the most famous pediatrician in the world would make drastic changes his his advice to parents about feeding their children. He would now recommend a mostly vegetarian diet and no dairy products at all for children over the age of two. I was chosen to help in this major revision, because Dr. Spock had been impressed by -- and had written the forward for -- my book, Dr. Attwood's Low-Fat Prescription For Kids. Judy, who has served as my publicity agent on road tours and is my co-author for an upcoming book, came along to help.

Dr. Spock was a vegetarian until age 12. This led to healthy growth -- six feet, four inches -- and great physical strength. Furthermore, he was a gold medallist at the 1924 Olympics, which was popularized in the movie, Chariots of Fire.

Throughout most of his long and spectacular career in medicine, politics, and human rights, he consumed a typical high-fat American diet. But this would change drastically after a mild stroke at age 88. He then resumed his vegetarian diet, and today -- he turned 94 in May -- he is physically active, traveling, writing, and speaking with a vigor and enthusiasm he had not experienced in many years.

Parents will be told in the upcoming new edition of Baby and Child Care that he is convinced children should eat a plant-based diet -- mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes -- with very little or no meat or dairy products -- to avoid the leading causes of premature death later as adults: namely heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. He attributes much of these new ideas to Dr. Frank Oski, former chief of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and myself.

Working with this great icon to make these changes has been a great honor for me. But how, you may ask, can this be done, when most children, and most families, have already developed a strong taste for their meat, milk, and cheese? Dr. Spock has suggested the four stage plan outlined in my book, spending several weeks (3 to 12) in each stage.





From Dr. Attwood's Low-Fat Prescription For Kids (Viking)

Such changes are far more important for your child -- and your family -- than most pediatricians and nutritionists seem to realize. On a typical American diet, according to the Bogalusa Heart Study's 25 years of reports, fatty deposits are found in the coronary arteries as early as age 3. By junior high school, these fatty deposits are present in over two-thirds of children. The deposits become thicker throughout the teens, and virtually all adults have them by the age of 21. The arteries of rural Asians and vegetarians in this country are clean.

"I want Baby and Child Care to be on the forefront with with all this new information we now have at hand," Dr. Spock recently explained to a colleague. His book has sold nearly 50 million copies over the past 50 years -- outselling any single book during the 20th Century except the Bible -- in 39 languages.

It's time, he thinks, to make sure his readers in the year 2,000 and beyond have the proper information at hand. He's right, by the time today's children are adults, it will be common knowledge that the truth was known back in 1996.

Parents have a new responsibility to their children to prevent heart disease and cancer. It's the gift of a lifetime.

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