Bipolar Kids Need Nutrition, Not Drugs
(OMNS, October 16, 2008) The NY Times Magazine's cover story, "The Bipolar Kid" (September 14, 2008), is a very bleak article. While emphasizing the miseries of living with such a child, Jennifer Egan's article offers little hope except for ever-increasing doses of lithium. Long on discussions of definitions and diagnoses, it is remarkably short on treatment alternatives. Not a word about diet. Not a word about vitamins. Indeed, in this 9,500 word feature, describing the daily life of an out-of-control, beyond-ADHD boy, the word "nutrition" is not mentioned at all. Neither are the words "sugar" or "caffeine."
What astounding omissions. Pediatrician Lendon H. Smith, M.D., nationally famous as "The Children's Doctor," was very plain in stating that sugar causes profound mood disorders. He specifically advised parents to give their children a "sugarless diet without processed foods." (1) It is not easy. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has reported that children between the ages of six and eleven drink nearly a pint of soda pop a day. 20% of toddlers drink soda pop, nearly a cup daily. (2) And, of the seven best selling soft drinks, six have caffeine in them. In sensitive persons, caffeine can cause psychotic behavior. (3)
Food colorings and benzoate preservatives increase childhood hyperactivity, according to research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, June 2004. (4) The study, involving 277 preschool children, also demonstrated that withdrawing these chemical additives decreased hyperactivity. When additives were reintroduced, there was once again an increase in hyperactivity. "Additives do have an effect on overactive behavior independent of baseline allergic and behavioral status," said lead author Dr. J.O. Warner. So many parents, and any of us who have taught school the day after Halloween, can verify this.
It is possible that the children profiled in the NY Times story are unusual in that they do not consume any sugar, or any artificial food colorings, or any benzoate preservatives, or any caffeine-laced soft drinks. But it is much more likely that they do. The article ignored these important factors even though health professionals are increasingly aware that the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system is nutrient-dependent and additive sensitive. Ian Brighthope, M.D., says, "What is going on in the mind can be influenced by the nutrients and chemicals going into it. You can't get anywhere with a patient with psychiatric symptomatology if their brain is hungry, starved, or poisoned." (5)
Yet in the entire Times article, the words "allergy" and "junk food" are not mentioned, not even once. Children's learning and behavior problems often begin in their parents' grocery carts. Allergist Benjamin Feingold, M.D., was convinced of the negative effect of food chemicals on children's behavior and the role of good nutrition in treatment. (6) Says the Feingold Association: "Numerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people." (7)
Another word totally absent from the Times article is "vitamin." Psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, M.D., has had decades of experience and considerable success treating children's behavioral disorders with vitamins. High doses of vitamin B-3 (niacin, or niacinamide) were first used by Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphrey Osmond in the early 1950s. The trials were double-blind and placebo controlled. Over half a century later, vitamin therapy has still been largely ignored by the psychiatric profession, and, evidently, by some newspapers.
What a loss to patients and their families. I know and personally observed a preadolescent who was having serious behavioral problems in school and at home. Interestingly enough, the child had already been taking physician-prescribed little bits of niacin, though totaling less than 150 mg/day, but evidently it wasn't enough to be effective. When tried, drugs (especially Adderall) actually made him worse: far more angry and dangerously confrontational. I was present when his parents had to hold him down while he screamed death threats at them. In desperation, his mother finally tried giving him 500 mg of niacin, three times daily (1,500 mg total). There was some improvement. With about 500 mg every two hours (an astounding 6,000-8,000 mg/day), the boy was a new person. He was now a cheerful, cooperative, affectionate youngster. Adding vitamin C and B-6 to his regimen helped even more. His school performance soared, the teachers loved him, and they repeatedly said so. At age 15, his maintenance dose was about 3,000 mg/day. He has since graduated from high school and is successfully employed. This is exactly in line with what Dr. Hoffer has repeatedly demonstrated for over 50 years. (8)
People often ask, "If this treatment is so good, how come my doctor doesn't know about it? How come it is not in the newspaper?" Those are good questions.
The NY Times should know that reporting one side is not good reporting. To tell the whole story, we need nutrition. So do bipolar children.
(1) Smith L. Foods for Healthy Kids. Berkley, 1991. ISBN-10: 0425127087; ISBN-13: 978-0425127087
(2) Jacobson MF. Liquid Candy: How soft drinks are harming Americans' health. http://www.cspinet.org/sodapop/liquid_candy.htm Accessed Sept 18, 2008.
(3) Whalen R. Welcome to the dance: caffeine allergy, a masked cerebral allergy and progressive toxic dementia. Trafford Publishing, 2005. ISBN-10: 1412050006; ISBN-13: 978-1412050005. Reviewed in J Orthomolecular Med, 2005. Vol 20, No 3, p 215-217 and at http://www.doctoryourself.com/news/v5n11.rtf Synopsis at http://www.doctoryourself.com/caffeine_allergy.html
(4) Bateman B, Warner JO, Hutchinson E et al. The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Arch Dis Child. 2004. Jun;89(6):506-11.
(5) Interview, in the documentary film, Food Matters. Permacology Productions, 2008. http://www.foodmatters.tv
(6) Feingold BF. Why Your Child is Hyperactive. NY: Random House, 1985. ISBN: 0394734262. List of Dr. Feingold's publications: http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_feingold.html
(7) http://www.feingold.org/pg-research.html and http://www.feingold.org/pg-news.html Free email newsletter available.
(8) Hoffer A. Healing Children's Attention & Behavior Disorders: Complementary Nutritional and Psychological Treatments. Toronto: CCNM Press, 2004. ISBN-10: 1897025106; ISBN-13: 978-1897025109. List of Hoffer's publications: http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_hoffer.html See also: http://www.doctoryourself.com/review_hoffer_B3.html