Since yesterday (Monday, December 17, 2012) the Dutch documentary 'Rauwer' was shown on TV, various discussions have flared up in the Netherlands. The documentary is about a mother (Francis Kenter) and her son (Tom Watkins) who have both been eating raw food for about 10 years. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, nothing more. The predecessor of this documentary had already been premiered in 2008 under the name 'Rauw'. See below:
On November 14, mother and son were guests at Pauw en Witteman, where they told their story. Below that excerpt:
One point I DO NOT want to focus on is the mother's view that it is better for the child to stay at home to learn because there can be too many bad influences at school. In the Netherlands every child is of compulsory school age; whether that is justified or not (it doesn't seem to be the case in England) is another discussion that we might be able to pursue in our forum.
Another discussion that has been heard a lot in response to these documentaries is the question of whether that mother 'maltreats', 'indoctrinates', 'protects', etc. She is responsible for the health of her child and should treat him accordingly. that a healthy and happy life awaits him. But what is '(un) health' actually? If the doctor says you are unhealthy, is that true?
Characteristics of health
Tom, who is now probably about 15 years old and thus in his puberty, is small. Despite the fact that he is growing, he remains a lot smaller than his peers. According to a doctor, this has to do with my diet, which means that he has far too little energy, does not get enough protein, his calcium level is too low and also lacks specific fats. In addition to the fact that his body grows less, according to the doctor, this also has consequences for the development of his brain. The reason Tom eats this way is because his mom thinks it's better for him. According to her, it has been proven that there are substances in cooked food that can cause cancer. Baking in oil or heating in the microwave is out of the question for her. Millions of years ago we didn't eat hot food either, the reasoning goes, so why not go back to this more natural form of consumption? Or to come up with another example: if you're going to feed monkeys pizzas and energy drinks, that will certainly not be good for those animals.
It's quite tempting to blame the mother for everything. She may not immediately look like the friendliest mother and she may not always speak her words well. But does that detract from her reasoning? Unfortunately, I am not an expert in the field of biomedical sciences and I do not know to what extent certain points of view that she cites are 'proven'. But: the same will apply to the doctor's position; he will also base his diagnosis on scientifically recognized theories. Still, I think she has a point: 'health' is relative and therefore depends on what you take as standard. Is Tom sick, or is the rest of society sick?
According to CBS, in 2011 slightly more than half of men overweight, as well as over 40% of women. Also there are in absolute numbers more and more deaths due to cancer in the Netherlands, even though a decrease can be seen in relative terms. Still, the number of deaths from cancer is the Netherlands relatively high compared to other countries. In the Netherlands, between the 60,000 to 100,000 children with ADHD (although this number has not increased in the last 20 years). To name a few examples. To give an honest picture, shouldn't the doctor also express his concerns about the dietary patterns of some of these people? By this I mean: although Tom may be missing some nutrients in his food (which may be essential for a healthy continuation), the same probably applies to many more children in the Netherlands. The doctor's diagnosis can thus be put into perspective: the diet is 'unhealthy', but that applies to many more children.
The difference between Tom and these 'other children' is probably that Tom looks perfectly healthy. He has just as much energy playing football as his peers and also comes across as a sober, reasonably bright boy. Moreover, he does not indicate that he does not feel well (unless he eats food that he should not actually eat, because his body is not used to it). Okay, it's smaller, but since when is height a measure of that? health?
Different points of view
The great thing about science is that we can predict things based on research results. In the above videos, the mother expresses fear of cancer in particular, unfortunately I cannot immediately conclude whether there are other things that she wants to protect her child from with this diet. The doctor explains next to the growth problem (what in itself doesn't really have to be a problem), a risk of stagnation in brain development. How do these two points of view weigh against each other? As far as I know, no research has been done into exactly this consideration, but it is likely that considerations can be made. Adding a few dietary supplements to the food can possibly significantly decrease the likelihood of stagnation in brain development than the same supplement reduces the likelihood of cancer (difficult sentence, I am trying to balance the two points of view here). The mother has clearly chosen not to do this, thereby making a clear stand against our Western eating habits, and perhaps also against our Western views of what is medically 'healthy'.
Another point that comes back in the videos, which I would like to mention briefly, is nicely summarized by Tom's grandmother. She says: "I don't have to live to be 150 years old, I want to be able to enjoy it." This resembles a hedonistic attitude, which more people seem to adhere to. Is this so? Do we mainly have to follow what we can enjoy and do we not have to be so aware of the consequences? I don't necessarily agree with Mother Francis in encouraging her child to adopt these eating habits, but she certainly has a point where we can learn to appreciate our food better and be more aware of our food. She herself may have gone a bit too far, but only the future can tell whether that is the case.
Nb A small disclaimer: I absolutely do not know the situation of Tom and his mother, and only base the above story on the two above videos that I have seen. I have not seen the documentary 'Rauwer' either.