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(Fruit Is Not Like Mother's Milk--continued, Part G)

Probing Fruitarian Defenses of the
"Fruit is Like Mother's Milk" Theory

This concluding section deals with the most common defenses of, and issues related to, the "fruit = milk" theory.

Theory promoters can't
have it both ways

In promoting fruit as the ideal food on its own merits, then claiming that fruit is wonderful because it is (also) "just like mother's milk," the fruitarians who promote this theory are establishing the idea that:

On the other hand, most fruitarians are vegans, and the vegan "party line" on dairy is very negative:

It is obvious to all (except, apparently, those who promote the false "fruit = milk" theory) that these principles directly contradict each other. This can be easily illustrated by considering these principles in turn.

Assume that mother's milk can be used to measure the quality of other foods. If so, then since goat milk is closer in composition to human milk than is fruit (documented in parts I and II), it follows that goat milk is a much better food than fruit. Hence, by this logic, fruitarians should switch to a diet of goat milk! :-)

Now assume the standard, negative vegan "party line" on milk. Pretend that "fruit = milk" as some fruitarians claim. It then follows that fruit is an UNnatural food, and, if the comparison is extended to milk other than mother's milk, perhaps a "horror," and "liquid meat." I don't know what the fruitarians should switch to here--perhaps those indigestible, artificial soy "milks" sold in aseptic packages in health food stores? :-(

The perils of extrapolating
from infants to adults

There is another problem with the fruitarian use of milk as an example. The simplistic use of milk as the model or ideal food ignores important realities:

  1. That milk is the ideal food for humans only at a specific time--the first few months of infancy, and

  2. Milk composition is not (necessarily) constant during the entire period of suckling. Consider the consumption pattern of mother's milk for a typical infant:

    1. Milk-dependent period (breast or bottle-feeding). During the first few months of an infant's life, mother's milk is (or can be) the exclusive food for the infant. The length of this period may vary substantially due to individual and/or cultural factors, but usually lasts 6 months or less.

    2. Weaning. Solid foods are (gradually) introduced, but the infant also continues to consume breast milk. The length of this period again varies; in Western countries it may last up to age 1 year; in Islamic countries to age 2 years; and in hunter-gatherer societies, up to age 3-5 years.

    3. Normal diet (no more mother's milk).

Now, the reason for elaborating the above is to clarify the (incorrect) logic of the fruit = milk promoters. First, they are extrapolating from milk composition during the milk-dependent period (A, first 4-6 months of life) to the entire period of adulthood. Needless to say, the results of such an extrapolation are dubious to say the least.

And what's more, fruitarians are involved in promoting a double-standard here. As noted above, they are perfectly willing to point out that milk--or, as we are examining here, its nutritional profile--is appropriate for infants only, so long as they are looking at other species. But then they turn right around and assume just the opposite where humans are concerned. This inconsistency illustrates both the blind spot in this type of thinking as well as the double-think involved.

Second, the theory's proponents appear to ignore (up to the time of writing of this article) that milk composition can change dramatically near the end of weaning. A study by Neville et al., found that the composition of human milk changed at the end of the weaning period (when milk flow was less than 400 ml/day). They found that the protein and fat content increased, and the lactose content decreased, in the latter part of weaning. (See Neville et al., Figure 6 and discussion, p. 86; and Figure A-1, Graphs B and N, p. 88.)

Thus we see that the milk composition data used by the fruit = milk theory proponents (and those promoting crank-science "protein is toxic" theories) don't even necessarily extend to the end of the weaning period! Obviously, reality contradicts the idea that milk composition during the milk-dependent period (A) is ideal for later life, or that the low protein content of milk in that period implies that adults really need very little protein.

Dilute solutions and
watered-down logic

One defense of the fruit = milk theory is based on the fact that milk and fruit are "nearly the same" because they are all high-water-content foods. This is nonsense; the argument is that the difference between ~4% fat (by weight) in milk, and ~0.6% fat or less in sweet fruit, is small. While it is true that 4-(0.6) = 3.4 is a small number, the difference is very significant in calories and nutrient content. Water, though essential, is not a nutrient per se--instead it is a medium. One must exclude water when evaluating the net nutrient content of foods.

The fruitarian argument here is invalid: It is similar to claiming that whole and skim milk are nearly the same, because the difference in fat content is a "small" number. Another example will illustrate this further. Make two solutions: Take two separate containers of distilled water, 999 ml = 999 grams of water each. To one, labeled S, add 1 gram sugar (any kind of pure sugar). To the other, labeled P, add 1 gram parathion, an organophosphate widely used as a pesticide. Solutions S and P are nearly the same by the fruitarian non-logic; the difference is only 0.1%. However, the sugar solution is harmless, while the parathion solution is poisonous and very dangerous (it would easily kill an adult). The point here is obvious: Content, other than water, does matter!

Calories are important

Some fruitarians may try to defend the non-logic of their "high water" defense of the fruit = milk theory by claiming that calories are not important. Meanwhile, the real experience of those with anorexia nervosa (and some fruitarians) is that you starve when your caloric intake is too low. Considering that many fruitarians are emaciated, with weight at anorexic levels, perhaps they should take the concept of calories more seriously? As one of the other writers on this site mentioned in a post on the "Raw" email list (from memory, paraphrased): "Calories are not a theory. Fruitarianism is a theory, and false-to-facts." [See The Calorie Paradox of Raw Veganism for more on the fallacies of the school of rawist reasoning that regards calories as irrelevant; and why calories, or the lack thereof, are an important factor in the success and failure of different types of rawist diets.]

"Fruitarian mother's milk is just like
fruit!"--The last-resort defense

Those who cite this defense are claiming that the nutritional analyses of mother's milk were made using milk from omnivore mothers, hence is not the same as an analysis of milk from fruitarian mothers. As there are no published studies on the breast milk composition of fruitarian mothers, the defense cannot be directly debunked. However, the issues of mother's diet vs. breast milk composition, and essential fatty acid (EFA) composition of milk, have been researched extensively, so that reasonable inferences about fruitarian breast milk can be made. Let us briefly review some of the relevant research, as follows.

(Note: Reference list for above is at the end of Section III.)

The above studies allow us to make some inferences regarding fruitarian mothers and their breast milk.

To summarize: Fruitarian breast milk probably has lower fat/EFA content than the breast milk of omnivore mothers. Because EFAs are essential for the development of the child's neural functions, the question "Are EFAs at adequate levels in fruitarian breast milk?" is relevant. If fruitarian breast milk is really, truly like the "4 sweet fruits" blend studied in Sections I and II, then fruitarian children could be harmed or malnourished by such milk, as it contains so little fat/EFAs, and so much sugar.

The "fruit = milk" theory
is potentially dangerous

The above establishes that the fruit = milk theory is potentially dangerous to innocent children. What if someone identifies with the idealism of fruitarianism, and actually believes the theory? What if such a person were to substitute fruit/fruit juice for mother's milk (or for animal milk or formula) in the diet of an infant? The innocent infant could suffer serious, permanent neurological damage as the result of such a foolish and dangerous action.

When challenged on this point, some fruitarians are quick to claim that they never said fruit could be substituted for mother's milk for infants. True, but many fruitarians (repeatedly) say that: (1) fruit is the ideal food, and (2) fruit is like mother's milk. Obviously, even without saying it, (1) and (2) may lead someone to believe that they can substitute fruit juice for milk. Out of common decency and common sense, fruitarians who promote the phony fruit = milk theory should make a point of consistently, clearly, and explicitly stating that fruit cannot be substituted for milk in the diet of young infants. However, I have never seen a fruitarian do this (up to the time this is written). Perhaps they don't mention it because it puts them in the uncomfortable position of admitting that fruit is really not like milk?

Finally, some fruitarians and their supporters laugh at the above criticisms. They may say that the theory, and the criticisms thereof, are "just words" and nothing to be excited about. The reaction of such people tells you a great deal about them. They are saying that a false nutritional theory that may put the health of infants at grave risk (among parents who believe the theory) is "just words," and that you should laugh with them at those who show genuine concern for the health of innocent children.

Further, consider the fruitarians who promote the theory but then blithely claim, when confronted, that it should not be taken seriously. What does their attempted evasion of responsibility say about their accountability? What does it suggest about how seriously one should take anything they say? Besides the disingenuous contradiction of promoting a theory on the one foot ;-) while backpedaling it with the other, it suggests that those who promote the theory when they say it should not be taken so seriously: (a) consider the theory to be a convenient marketing/debating tool, and/or (b) regard marketing the diet via the theory as more important than the health of innocent children (i.e., because they fail to stop and think about the potential consequences here, or to warn people not to take the theory seriously).

The obligate crank
science "proof"

A fallacious statistical "proof" that milk and fruit are similar

In fruitarian circles, an alleged "proof" has been circulated in the past that claims to statistically prove that the nutritional profile for milk is closer to that of fruit than any other food. The subject "proof" uses correlation (a measure of linear association) and covariance (a measure of the joint variability of two variables) to allegedly support the claims of similarity.

However, a close examination of the alleged statistical "proof"--apparently the best "proof" of the alleged similarity between milk and fruit that the "fruit is like mother's milk" contingent has been able to muster--instead reveals something "completely different" (in the Monty Python sense of the term :-) ). Indeed, a rigorous examination of the alleged "proof" shows that it analyzes the wrong data (hard to believe, but true), uses inappropriate analytical methods (covariance, correlation) for the data to be considered, plus uses the methods incorrectly, and even manages to derive invalid conclusions from the numbers that were produced by the incorrect proof.

Thus, rather than being a "robust" statistical proof that the nutritional profiles for milk and fruit are similar, the subject "proof" instead demonstrates crackpot, crank science at its worst. As well, it serves as a prime example of the misuse of statistics to promote fallacious dietary dogma. (When you are performing a crank science proof, it's important to have already reached the conclusion you want to arrive at ahead of time before you bother performing any calculations, of course. That way if the numbers look like they will point to an inconvenient conclusion, you can ignore them and find another way to crank out some numbers that suit you better. This is made even easier when one doesn't have the necessary training in statistical methods to recognize the nature of the issues involved in what they are attempting in the first place.)

Because a discussion of the crank science "proof" at issue here assumes/requires some knowledge of statistics, an in-depth analysis is provided as an appendix to this paper. Readers with an interest in statistics are encouraged to review the analysis. However, others may also be able to glean at least some general principles about the nature of the "proof," and why it fails the requirements of a genuine, valid proof.

Are fruitarians and their supporters
thinking rationally on this issue?

The "fruit is like mother's milk" theory is one of the issues where real scientific data and methods are available to provide a definitive answer. (That is not the case for some of the other issues in fruitarianism.) Compiling the data here--doing the analysis, and writing it up--has required a considerable effort. I hope you find it of interest.

Additionally, readers may note the significant effort required to debunk bogus claims that many fruitarians make in a casual manner. Compare the detailed nature of the analysis here with the careless, nonchalant manner in which most fruitarians dispense their advice. (Or for the mathematically inclined, when ersatz statistical proofs may be offered--such as the "obligate crank science proof" mentioned above--compare the sloppy, mangled, and misinformed masquerade of such pseudo-statistics with the carefully considered foundation underlying the statistical approach and analysis taken here, as outlined in the appendix.) Then reflect on how likely it is that there is any serious evidence or legitimate scientific research to back up the fruitarian claims, in contrast to bogus analogies based on oversimplified data and/or the emotional appeal of superficial slogans.

References for Section III

Birch E, Birch D, Hoffman D, Hale L, Everett M, Uauy R (1993) "Breast-feeding and optimal visual development." Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Jan.-Feb. 1993, 30(1):33-8.

de la Presa-Owens S, Lopez-Sabater MC, Rivero-Urgell M (1996) "Fatty acid composition of human milk in Spain." Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Feb. 1996, 22(2):180-5.

Farquharson J, Jamieson EC, Logan RW, Patrick WJ, Howatson AG, Cockburn F (1995) "Age- and dietary-related distributions of hepatic arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acid in early infancy." Pediatric Research, Sept. 1995, 38(3):361-5.

Hardy SC, Kleinman RE (1994) "Fat and cholesterol in the diet of infants and young children: implications for growth, development, and long-term health." Journal of Pediatrics, Nov. 1994, 125(5 Pt 2):S69-77.

Hornstra G, Al MD, van Houwelingen AC, Foreman-van Drongelen MM (1995) "Essential fatty acids in pregnancy and early human development." European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, July 1995, 61(1):57-62.

Makrides M, Neumann MA, Gibson RA (1996) "Is dietary docosahexaenoic acid essential for term infants?" Lipids, Jan. 1996, 31(1):115-9.

Makrides M, Neumann MA, Simmer K, Gibson RA (1995) "Erythrocyte fatty acids of term infants fed either breast milk, standard formula, or formula supplemented with long-chain polyunsaturates." Lipids, Oct. 1995, 30(10):941-8.

Motil KJ, Sheng HP, Montandon CM (1994) "Case report: failure to thrive in a breast-fed infant is associated with maternal dietary protein and energy restriction." Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Apr. 1994, 13(2):203-8.

Nettleton JA (1993) "Are n-3 fatty acids essential nutrients for fetal and infant development?" Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jan. 1993, 93(1):58-64.

Neville MC, Allen JC, Archer PC, Casey CE, Seacat J, Keller RP, Lutes V, Rasbach J, Neifert M (1991) "Studies in human lactation: milk volume and composition during weaning and lactogenesis." Am J Clin Nutr 54:81-92.

Ortiz-Olaya N, Flores ME, DeSantiago S (1996) "Significance of lipid consumption during lactation." Revista de Investigacion Clinica, Nov.-Dec. 1996, 48(6):473-8.

Ratnayake WM, Chen ZY (1996) "Trans, n-3, and n-6 fatty acids in Canadian human milk." Lipids, Mar. 1996, 31 Suppl:S279-82.

Reddy S, Sanders TA, Obeid O (1994) "The influence of maternal vegetarian diet on essential fatty acid status of the newborn." European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 1994, 48(5):358-68.

Ruan C, Liu X, Man H, Ma X, Lu G, Duan G, DeFrancesco CA, Connor WE (1995) "Milk composition in women from five different regions of China: the great diversity of milk fatty acids." Journal of Nutrition, Dec. 1995, 125(12):2993-8.


(Defects of an Alleged Statistical "Proof" that Fruit and Mother's Milk are Similar)

Back to beginning of article

See Table of Contents for Section I - Nutritional Comparison Tables

See Table of Contents for Section II - Making Sense of the Numbers

See Table of Contents for Section III - Challenging Fruitarian Defenses of the Theory

Back to Waking Up from the Fruitarian Dreamtime
Back to Research-Based Appraisals of Alternative Diet Lore

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