Children’s Mental Health - Feeding the Next Generation

The keynote speech at this very interesting full day conference was given by Dr Alex Richardson on the role of essential fatty acids in ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia and ASD and there is an extract from one of her papers on the below.

There were three other ‘plenary’ presentations were and a number of parallel workshops.

Dr Neil Ward from the Department of Chemistry at Surrey University explained the influence that toxins and heavy metals can have on childrens’ behaviour.

His researches suggest that in ADHD children low levels of zinc, magnesium, selenium, chromium, iron, copper and calcium are often accompanied by high levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and aluminium. It is difficult to establish cause and effect here as low levels of zinc, for example, allow an over uptake of heavy metals, while exposure to heavy metals blocks the body’s ability to absorb essential elements such as zinc.

Zinc is especially important because not only do low zinc levels lead to susceptibility to infection and gut permeability, but zinc also regulates the synthesis of melatonin, one of the brain chemicals heavily implicated in mood swings and aggressive behaviours. Antibiotics in the first year of life are known to dramatically reduce zinc levels in ADHD children.

Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride from the Cambridge Nutrition Clinic started her talk with some alarming figures:

• 1 in 10 children now has learning difficulties at school

• 10% of all children in the classroom have been diagnosed as ADHD

• 10% of children are dyslexic, 10% are dyspraxic

• There has been a 40 fold increase in autism in the last 10 years

• Teenagers are 4 times more likely to crash a car than adults

• 1 in 8 children have asthma and there is a child admitted to hospital every 16 minutes with an asthma attack.

• 10-20% under 6 year olds have eczema

• 20% of under 6 year olds have allergies.

• Most of these children have several if not all of these conditions.

So what has changed?

The typical mother of today’s under 10s was not breast fed and will probably have had many courses of antibiotics, maybe even when she was pregnant. She may also have been on the contraceptive pill, and eaten a substantial amount of junk food - all of which conditions will have damaged her gut flora and may have left her with a compromised immune system, digestive problems, migraine and fatigue.

Her baby will inherit damaged gut flora and the compromised immune system from its mother and probably will not be breast fed. The vaccinations which the baby will have were designed for children with healthy immune systems, so further damage may be done by them. The baby will then be prone to infections, for which it will be given anti biotics - yet more damage to gut flora and immune system.

Result - digestive disorders, allergies, asthma, eczema. Digestive disorders will result in a leaky gut and a build up of toxins in the gut which will cross the gut, and then the blood brain barrier and lodge in the brain - causing ‘foggy’ brain, inability to learn and behavioural problems.

To treat such children the most important thing is to normalise the digestion thus preventing the further manufacture and transmission of toxins to the brain. Dr McBride uses not just a gluten and casein free, but a low carbohydrate diet combined with effective probiotics, detoxification (with vegetable juices), supplementation with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and digestive enzymes, plus Epsom salts.

Bernard Gesch, Senior Research Scientist at Oxford and the Director of Natural Justice, in his talk on Diet, Crime and Antisocial Behaviour, first pointed out that although the brain only accounts for 2% of our bodies’ weight it uses 20% of our food derived energy stocks.

Over the last 40 years there has been a massive change in the nature of the fat we consume (1,000 fold increase in the use of soya, for example) and a massive rise in our consumption of refined sugar.

Refining removes 98% of the zinc from sugar and despite awareness that sugar can have a similar effect on the brain to drugs, and the WHO recommendation that it should form no more than 10% of our daily diet, among the criminal community over 40% of their daily diet is sugar. Assessment of the nutritional status of a group of 18-21 year old male offenders showed that 54% had below the Reference Nutrient Intake (the amount necessary to prevent ill health) of zinc, 67% below the RNI for iodine, 73% for magnesium, 75% for potassium while they all showed over 3 times the recommended intake of sodium. The peak group for offending are late teenage males - the moment of maximum growth when poor diet cannot provide sufficient nutrition to the brain for proper function.

Total crime has risen steadily over the generations and community sentencing has shown no improvement in re-offending rates. However re-offending dropped by over 30% for new release prisoners given nutritional training.

And more. Randomised control trials of vitamin. mineral and EFA supplementation of 18-21 year old serious offenders showed a drop of 37% in prisoner on prisoner violence, with no adverse reactions.

The parallel workshops consisted of interesting nutritional approaches to ADHD and behavioural problems from Kate Neil, Director of the Centre for Nutrition Education, Eve Gilmore, Nutrition Practitioner, Eileen Palmer, Psychotherapist, Dr Brian McDonogh from the Eagle Clinic and Oscar Umharo Cadogan, Nutrition consultant and Chef.

For more information on the conference and workshops contact:

Pavilion, The Iron Works, Cheapside, Brighton BN1 4ZZ Tel. 0870 161 3505


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First Published in 2003


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