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Nutrition--The Brainpower Advantage|
An average difference of 20 IQ points
In his book Children In Trouble, Howard James writes, "Far more valid research has been done on raising pigs, chickens, corn, or cucumbers, than on solving the problems of our troubled youth." The diets of animals in zoos are treated as a science with top nutrition experts, and yet the diet of the offspring of our own species is left to the hands of junk food manufacturers whose main attention is on bottom line profit, and who have little expertise in human nutrition.
Perhaps more than any other single thing a poor diet is the greatest contributor to a child's learning disabilities or learning success. Any program that attempts to help a child must first focus on the diet; with a follow-through of nutrition supplements. This type of program has been proven successful with literally hundreds of children.
In 1973 Dr. Bernard Rimland, director of the Institute for Child Behavior Research in San Diego, used a formula of B complex, plus extra B5 and B6, plus Vitamin C and iron to help emotionally disturbed children. The only individual variable he was able to consider in designing the formulae was the child's body weight. Nevertheless, out of 190 severely disturbed children, 164 showed some improvement over 90 days.
In 1980 Dr. Ruth Harrell and her colleagues at Old Dominion University, Virginia, gave comprehensive vitamin and mineral supplements to a group of five mentally retarded children. Eleven other retarded children received a placebo. Over a period of only four months, the supplemented children increased their IQ's by 5.0 to 9.6 points. The unsupplemented children showed no significant change. Over a further four months all sixteen children were given the supplements. The previously unsupplemented group showed an average increase in IQ of 10.2 points with a range of 3 to 21 points. Three of the five children supplemented throughout showed further IQ gains in the second four months. Over the eight months they gained 9, 16, and 25 IQ points respectively. These gains are highly significant, especially as they were achieved with a mixture of different retardation syndromes, including Down's syndrome.
It was not possible for Dr. Harrell to do an individual analysis of each child's nutritional needs. Because of this, her study results have been criticized by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the arbitrary nature of the vitamin/mineral formula. The whole research effort over nine years has been directed at overcoming this problem. It is no easy task. To design an individual supplement for a normal child is frighteningly complex, let alone for a retarded child. Dr. Harrell is to be applauded for her courageous and successful findings instead of criticized for unresolvable complexities.
The Academy of Pediatrics expressed doubt that vitamins and minerals could be used therapeutically with an affliction as diverse as mental retardation, which can be a result of genetic abnormalities. But nutrition knows no boundaries of disease. It improves the functioning of the whole body. So it is not surprising that it benefits just such a wide range of syndromes.
Children don't have to be retarded or learning disabled to benefit from vitamins and minerals. In one study in Norfolk, Virginia, children born to mothers who had received extra nutrients during pregnancy had higher IQs than children of mothers who did not. Yet the supplement contained only Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and iron, and the children were tested three to four years later. That even a poor supplement given to the mothers could have such long-range effects on their infants indicates the potential power of optimal nutrition.
Another study compared poorly nourished black children to a matched group of well-nourished black children over a period of seven years. Each time IQs were tested, the poorly nourished group was between fifteen and twenty IQ points below the other group. At the final testing at age eight, the well-nourished group was twenty-three IQ points above the children who had remained malnourished.
In a study at Dr. Michael Colgan's clinic in New Zealand, and in the University of Auckland Psychology Clinic, from 1977 to 1979, Dr. Michael Colgan treated sixteen cases of children classified as minimally brain damaged (MBD), hyperactive or slow learners, plus one case of child autism. All were given individually designed vitamin and mineral supplements. All of these children had been treated elsewhere without success. Some were found to have toxic metals in their bodies and some had substantial allergies. These were dealt with also. Diets were changed to reduce processed foods, candies and soft drinks. Over periods from three to six months, every case showed improvements in behavior, at home, at school and in the clinic, and in motor coordination, speech articulation and reading skills. They found unexpected improvements between 5 and 35 IQ points with an average improvement of 17.9 points!
Both of these studies, and Dr. Harrell's work and Dr. Colgan's studies, used standardized intelligence tests. Although these tests have been the subject of controversy in recent years, in February 1982 the National Academy of Sciences finally determined that they are valid measures of intellectual ability. Differences of over twenty IQ points were found in all studies. At the bottom of the scale this is the difference between normalcy and idiocy. At the top of the scale it is the difference between average and exceptionally bright. Clearly, good nutrition can convey a profound intellectual advantage.