Children with ADHD lack magneisum

March 17, 2006

A majority of restless ADHD children were lacking in magnesium. All children improved when given magnesium and B6-vitamin supplements.

In almost all kindergarten classes there are one or two so-called ADHD-children giving the teacher a hard time with their continuous restlessness, running about, violent behaviour and inattentiveness. (ADHD stands for Attention Deficit, Hyperactivity Disorder).

Two studies – the only ones conducted – have now shown that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 helps.

Why should magnesium help? In a French study 52 children, all diagnosed with ADHD, were examined. The children were typically six years old. If the serum level of magnesium was measured in a normal blood test, normal values were seen. But since almost all magnesium in the body is found inside the cells, this says nothing. It is inside the cells that we must look.

On average, the children only had 4/5 of the amount of magnesium in the cells (in this case, the red blood cells) present in normal adults. They were deficient in magnesium!

Therefore they were given a daily supplement of 6 mg. of magnesium and 0.8 mg. Vitamin B6 per kilo body mass for one to six months. After this, no less than all the children got better. For example, at the beginning of the experiment 26 of the children were deemed physically aggressive. After four months, only six. At the same time their ability to concentrate and their attention span improved (evaluated in an approved manner). Statistically, these results were quite credible.

A weakness in the French study was that it was a so-called open study. There was no untreated control group and the treatment was not blind. This leaves room for coincidence and over-interpretation. On the other hand, the study showed exactly the same as a similar study from 1997. Also, the improvements occurred at the same time as the measurable magnesium deficiency disappeared. When this had happened, treatment was stopped.

Magnesium in the Diet
If it works, it may not be that surprising. The same course of treatment seems to have helped women suffering from irritability and imbalance due to PMS (PreMenstrual Syndrome) in several studies. On top of this comes the generally sedative effect on nerves (magnesium can be used as a local anaesthetic). Magnesium has a relaxing effect on muscles. Does magnesium also have a calming effect on the central nervous system?

Another question is why ADHD-children apparently are deficient in magnesium. The French suggest that genetic factors play a role, but in a majority of the parents, it was not just one, but both of them who were deficient in the mineral. This suggests that nutrition is more important.

A British evaluation indicates that foodstuffs’ content of magnesium has decreased in the past 60 years. It is estimated that today there is 24 and 16 percent less magnesium in vegetables and fruit, respectively, than in 1940. On top of this is an increase in the consumption of sugar. Those who dauntlessly claim that 10 percent of the calories in the diet can be contributed by sugar, are also saying that you can easily omit 10 percent of the diet’s magnesium. Furthermore, less physical work means a decreased need for food generally, thereby decreasing the amount of magnesium we consume. A typical magnesium consumption rate today (3-400 mg. a day) is probably half of what it was 100 years ago.

Something else to consider also is that there is a row of more or less confirmed observations of connections between behavioural disorders in children and teenagers (and criminals) and an unhealthy diet. Is this purely coincidence?
It will take several months to rectify a magnesium deficiency, but it might be worth it to try.

By: Vitality Council

1. Mousain-Bosc et al. Magnesium VitB6 intake reduces central nervous system hyperexcitability in children. J Am Coll Nutrition 2004;23:545S-548S
2. Starobrat-Hermelin et al. The effects of magnesium physiological supplementation on hyperactivity in children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Magnes Res 1997;10:143-8

Children Get Smarter From Taking Fish Oil

October 24, 2005

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA in fish oil is an important building block for the brain. DHA deficiency in the first years of life may impact the normal development of the child’s brain.

Are children getting smarter from eating fish? Recent studies suggest that fatty acids in fish oil can help certain children with ADHD or dyslexia. But what about infants?

From the last third of fetal life to the end of the second year of life, children’s brains grow so strongly that one speaks of a brain growth spurt. During this period, a lack of a number of vital nutrients, such as fish oil, will affect brain function. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a comprehensive review of what is known about fish and young children’s brains.

As a starting point, it is known that the polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is highly concentrated in the cell walls of nerve cells. DHA is one of the two important n-3 fatty acids in fish oil. The other is EPA (eicosa-pentaenoic acid). EPA can be converted to DHA, and to a certain extent they can both be formed from the n-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid in e.g. linseed oil.

But does it form enough in a child who is not breastfed or gets oily fish? The question is relevant. It is known that breast-fed babies have up to 40% more DHA in the brain’s gray matter than bottle-fed babies. In addition, it is known that young animals and probably also infants, even if they are neither near-sighted nor far-sighted, will see a little less sharply if they lack n-3 fatty acids. The significance of this is debated.

The importance of DHA has been investigated e.g. by comparing bottle-fed babies with breast-fed babies who got DHA from breast milk. Bottle babies have also been compared with other bottle babies who have received n-3-enriched formula. The children have been tested for intellectual and motor development, attention, etc.

Greater attention
In these kinds of experiments, it has been shown that breast-fed babies fare slightly better on average than bottle-fed babies. But is the difference due to DHA? Nursing mothers may function slightly better than non-nursing mothers, and may have better social relationships, etc. When you correct for this, the differences diminish. Furthermore, there are many other differences between milk substitute and mother’s milk other than the DHA content.

It becomes somewhat clearer when you compare bottle babies, where only half receive extra n-3 supplements. Here the results have been mixed, but on one point a difference has been seen quite consistently: Infants who receive n-3 supplements have a greater capacity for visual attention, i.e. to follow the things they see. This important result has also been obtained in experiments with monkeys.

In animal experiments with rodents, the clearest differences have been found. This is due, among other things, to the fact that these experiments can be set up, so that the difference in brain DHA becomes particularly large. Animals that are starved of n-3 fat become less agile, find it harder to find their way around a maze, etc. Even if there are only minor differences in brain DHA, the animals that do not get fish oils are weakened. Roughly speaking, this is what is known.

So what can be concluded? The authors do not claim that children should demonstrably have n-3 supplementation during the brain spurt. But they claim, after sifting through 258 scientific papers, that the need cannot be ruled out.

– Small differences in brain DHA, which most likely occur between bottle-fed babies with and without n-3 supplementation, may have effects that are currently difficult to detect but could be important, it says. Or to put it more simply: Remember to give babies and toddlers fatty fish or fish oil! They seem to be getting wiser from it.

By: Vitality Council

Mc Cann J C, Ames, Bruce N. Is docosahexaenoic acid, an n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid, required for development of normal brain function? An overview of evidence from cognitive and behavioural tests in humans and animals. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:281-95

On-time “Delivery” with Vitamin C

June 28, 2005

Vitamin C is necessary for the creation and maintenance of connective tissue. Therefore, it protects pregnant women against damage to the fetus membrane so that the uterine fluid in which the fetus floats does not leave the uterus prematurely. The typical Danish diet contains much too little Vitamin C for pregnant women.

It is well-known that pregnant women should take folic acid – even before the conception of the fetus – to prevent the birth of children with Spina Bifida. Now it seems that Vitamin C is important for the pregnant in another area: It protects against premature birth.

By: Vitality Council

Casanueva E, Ripoll C, Tolentino M, Morales RM, Pfeffer F, Vilchis P, Vadillo-Ortega F Vitamin C supplementation to prevent premature rupture of the chorioamniotic membranes: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Apr;81(4):859-63.

Antioxidants Relieve the Adverse Effects of Chemotherapy

November 15, 2004

Children suffering from leukaemia tend to be more ill and be hospitalized longer if they are not given antioxidants.

The primary effect of chemotherapy is not through free radical activity but it does strain the organism with free radicals. Free radicals are combatted by antioxidants like vitamin C and -E. This piece of information is important, because not taking enough antioxidants while going through chemoterapy will result in more adverse effects and the treatment results can be delayed.

American doctors from several universities have published these results after having studied 103 children receiving chemotherapy for leukaemia. An evaluation of the children’s diet showed that they usually only got 1/3 – 2/3 of the recommended or normal amounts of various antioxidants. The reason for this is probably the treatment causing general malaise and reduced appetite.

The children who got the most vitamin C were hospitalized for a significantly shorter period and the children who got the most vitamin E suffered fewer infections and fewer adverse effects of the chemotherapy. The doctors conclude that a low intake of antioxidants results in more negative effects of the treatment.

The results can be related to a study of 49 American women who received chemotherapy for breast cancer and were asked about their use of dietary supplements. Multivitamins and vitamin E were the preferred supplements among the 35 women who did use supplements.

The women who took these vitamins maintained a better immune defence during the treatment – i.e. the number of white blood cells in their blood was less reduced during treatment compared to the women who did not use vitamin supplements. On the other hand, the number of white blood cells was more reduced in women taking relatively large amounts of the vitamin B9, folic acid.

It is very common for cancer patients to use dietary supplements. More than every other cancer patient at a hospital clinic in London used supplements, but less than half of them had told their GP about it.

By: Vitality Council

Kennedy DD, Tucker KL, Ladas ED, et al. Low antioxidant vitamin intakes are associated with increases in adverse effects of chemotherapy in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Am J Clin Nutr (United States), Jun 2004, 79(6) p1029-36.

Vitamin B12 helps against itching

September 6, 2004

Chronic itching can be effectively remedied with vitamin B12 – at least if the itching is due to childhood eczema, also called atopic eczema. The highly skin-soothing effect has been demonstrated by six German dermatologists in a quite simple experiment with 49 patients.

The itch-injured patients were each given two tubes of cream. One was a neutral moisturizer, while the other contained vitamin B12, otherwise available as tablets or as a solution for injection. In the following eight weeks, the patients lubricated the neutral cream on one side of the body and the B12 crem on the other side. After the eight weeks, both patients and doctors evaluated the result.

The effect was convincing. In approx. 60% of the cases the B12 vitamin cream, after both the doctor’s and the patient’s opinion, had resulted in a “good” or “very good” result. On the side of the body that had been treated with the moisturizer, the result was almost inevitably “moderate” or “bad”. Here too, doctors and patients agreed.

The B12 vitamin cream was exceptionally well tolerated and is quite harmless. The mode of action is thought to be that the vitamin in certain contexts is an effective antioxidant neutralizing NO (nitrogen oxide) in inflammated tissue.
It was known in advance that when you block the formation of NO in asthma medically, itching and rashes decreases. The new thing is that the same effect is achieved in this simple way by blocking NO when it is formed.

Itching is also a problem in many other skin diseases, just as many elderly suffer from chronic itching. If the vitamin works with other itchy conditions, it is unknown. An estimated 10% of elderly people in Britain suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.

By: Vitality Council


Stucker M, Pieck C, Stoerb C, Niedner R, Hartung J, Altmeyer P Topical vitamin B(12)-a new therapeutic approach in atopic dermatitis-evaluation of efficacy and tolerability in a randomized placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial. Br J Dermatol. 2004;150(5):977-83.

Pregnant Women Addicted to Alcohol Should Take Antioxidants

August 30, 2004

Every year, about a hundred children, who are severely damaged by their mother’s alcohol abuse, are born in Denmark. These children, born with the so called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), suffer from mental retardation, decreased growth, heart failure, striking malformations of their face, arms, and legs, and also suffer cardiac malformations.

Researchers at a centre for alcohol studies at the University of North Carolina now believe that some of these malformations can be avoided if pregnant women with an incontrollable alcohol consumption receive an antioxidant supplement, e.g. vitamin E. The viewpoint is that if the mothers are not capable of holding back – and this, of course, is the exact problem of alcoholics, it would be better to try to reduce the damages rather than making impossible demands.

The information is based on studies with foetal mice who were exposed to alcohol. It turned out that the nervous cells of the foetuses which are easily damaged by alcohol is partly protected by the antioxidant SOD. This indicates that the damages are caused by the formation of so-called free radicals and the researchers at the centre have already established that vitamin E, which is also an antioxidant, reduces these damages.

In the actual study, the mice were born with significantly less malformed limbs when they were protected by SOD. Based on this, the conductor of the study, professor Kathleen K. Sulik claimed that it would be “wonderful” if pregnant women with alcohol problems could be persuaded into taking vitamin supplements.

The number of babies who are born with more discrete alcohol damages is not known. An estimated consumption of only one drink a day can increase the risk of abortion and result in growth retardation of several hundred grams while the baby is still in its mother’s womb.

By: Vitality Council

1. Protection from ethanol-induced limb malformations by the superoxide dismutase/catalase mimetic, EUK-134. Chen SY, Dehart DB, Sulik KK. FASEB J. 2004.
2. Graviditet og alkohol [Pregnancy and alcohol]. Sundhedsstyrelsen 1999.

Important Nutrient Substance Protects Women Against Pre-eclampsia

December 17, 2003

According to a new British study, defiency of the trace mineral selenium might quadruple the risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.

According to British researchers, pregnant women with a low content of the vital trace mineral selenium have up to four times as high a risk of developing pre-eclampsia compared to women who are not deficient in this substance.

This is the result of a new study published in the November issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The researchers behind the study are not quite aware why some women develop pre-eclampsia which involves hypertension, kidney damage, and reduced blood supply to the placenta.

They suggest, however, that it might be connected with the decreasing intake of selenium in several countries. In Britain, the selenium content of wheat is 10 – 50 times lower than that of the USA and Canada, for example, making it difficult to maintain an adequate intake of this important substance.

The risk of premature delivery
In the recently published study made by a group of scientists led by Dr. Margaret P. Rayman at the University of Surry in Guildford, the toe nail clippings of 53 pregnant women with early signs of pre-eclampsia were studied and compared to toe nail clippings from 53 healthy women. Selenium accumulates in nails which makes nail clippings such a good gauge of people’s selenium status.

The researchers observed that the average selenium content of the toe nail clippings were considerably lower in the women with early signs of pre-eclampsia. The researchers also found that the pre-eclamptic women with the lowest selenium values were far more likely to deliver prematurely.

One of the reasons for pre-eclampsia is believed to be oxidants (a kind of toxins) that arise as a consequence of a poorly functioning placenta. As selenium is an effective antioxidant, it is very likely that a lack of this substance can contribute to the development of pre-eclampsia.

Worries of reduced selenium intakes
The leading researcher, Margaret Rayman, has expressed her concern about the declining intake of selenium in Britain where the dietary selenium intake is reduced by more than 50% compared to what it was 20 – 25 years ago. This is due to the selenium content of crops being significantly lower than it used to be.

“Selenium is an extremely important substance which is known to be able to prevent various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer and skin cancer. What really worries me is the observation that the authorities systematically reduce the recommended daily dose of selenium while new research shows just how important it is to get adequate amounts of this substance. 15 – 20 years ago, the recommended daily dose (RDA) was 125 mcg. a day – recently the RDA was reduced to 40 mcg. This completely opposes common sense,” says Claus Hancke, the chairman of the Danish Vitality Council.

The British group of researchers are already planning a new study intended to clarify if dietary supplements of selenium can protect against pre-eclampsia.

By: Vitality Council


American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (vol. 189, no. 5).

Vitamin C and E Protects Children Against Arteriosclerosis

September 1, 2003

Children and young people with increased cholesterol levels may reduce the risk of developing arteriosclerosis if they take a daily supplement of Vitamin C and E. This is the conclusion of a study published in Circulation, published by the American Heart Association.

15 children and young people of the age of 9 to 20 years were part of this study. Half of the children took a daily 500mg Vitamin C and 400i.e. (international units) Vitamin E supplement. The rest of the children took placebo. After 6 weeks the groups were switched.

After 6 weeks of active treatment the results showed a significant betterment of the inner wall of the artery. Vitamins alone do not reduce increased cholesterol, but the vitamins seem to be able to protect the blood vessels against sclerosis and thereby secure that the arteries remain their elasticity.

“This is the first time anyone has studied how antioxidants like Vitamin C and E can better circulatory function,” says the chairman of the Vitality Council, specialist doctor in general medicine, Claus Hancke.

“Even if it is a small study, the results are important for children with increased cholesterol. If they alternatively must have cholesterol lowering medicine for several years, the risk of serious side effects will be pretty high. It is therefore wise to give priority to diet changes and extra Vitamin C and E supplements as a first choice in therapy,” Claus Hancke says.

The American study also involved diet recommendations, but they did not follow those recommendations. Among other things the children got too much animal fat and too little fruit and vegetables. Therefore the doctors chose to combine the diet changes with Vitamin C and E supplementation.

The study is carried out at the University of California, under the supervision of Marguerite Engler, M.D.

By: Per Tork Larsen, DSOM

Circulation 2003;108:802

Children with Asthma are Helped by Antioxidants

May 30, 2002

A new study presented in the scientific magazine of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows that antioxidants like Vitamin C and E may protect the lungs of asthmatic children so that they are not harmed by ozone air pollution in the big cities.

158 asthmatic children from the very polluted Mexico City either got a supplement of antioxidants or a control supplement without active substances.

Nobody knew who got what before the code was broken at the end of the study one and a half year later.

The daily supplement given to the children was 50mg Vitamin E and 250mg Vitamin C. In the antioxidant group the children’s lung function was not reduced in those periods of time, where the city was heavily ozone polluted. On the contrary, the lung function of the children who got control tablets was worsened.

The scientists said, that the antioxidants especially seemed to help children with moderate or severe asthma. This points towards that children with advanced asthma are especially vulnerable to ozone, because thay have a weak antioxidant defence i their lungs.

Some asthmatics get severe symptoms, when they breathe in the air borne irritants like ozone found in big cities, coming from cars, power plants and industries.

Also studies made with healthy bikers have shown that antioxidants may reduce the harmfull effects of ozone pollution on lung function.

The scientists behind this study conclude, that asthmatic children in areas with air pollution should have more Vitamin C and E to protect their lungs.

The Vitality Council agrees with this conclusion.
Per Tork Larsen, DSOM


American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2002;166: 703-70