Provided by Wilkes-Barre Times Leader on 3/18/2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. Health experts say the first human study linking Ritalin, the most popular drug used to treat attention-deficit problems, to a higher risk of cancer is raising alarms.
But they caution that more and larger studies should be conducted before pediatricians and therapists curtail prescribing Ritalin for the millions of children and adults in the United States who have benefited from its use for more than 50 years.
In a study to be published in Cancer Letters, Texas researchers found that after only three months, every one of a dozen children treated with Ritalin had a three-fold increase in chromosome abnormalities associated with increased risks of cancer.
"This study doesn't mean that these kids are going to get cancer, but it does mean they are exposed to an additional risk factor, assuming this study holds up", said Marvin Legator, an environmental toxicologist and principal investigator on the study by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Mr. Legator acknowledged this week that the study group is small. But he said it was the first such study involving results in humans.
This should raise a red flag, Legator said. There's no question we need a bigger study before we take any further major action.
The drug is now made by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. In a statement, Novartis repeated the safety record of the drug, which it said has been used for years with no clinical evidence of a link to the development of cancer in humans.
Novartis continues to stand behind the safety and efficacy of Ritalin, which is an important treatment option for patients with ADHD, the statement said.
As if there were not enough problems with Ritalin already, this should make all parents think twice about using this approach to treating ADHD, when a natural approach is available.
Here are some studies that show that there are natural options to addressing a hyper active, attention deficit child, and they deal with fixing biochemical issues that are at the cause of the problem:
Your brain needs DHA
NEW YORK, NY. Dr. Barbara Levine, Professor of Nutrition in Medicine at Cornell University, sounds the alarm concerning a totally inadequate intake of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) by most Americans. DHA is the building block of human brain tissue and is particularly abundant in the grey matter of the brain and the retina. Low levels of DHA have recently been associated with depression, memory loss, dementia, and visual problems. DHA is particularly important for fetuses and infants; the DHA content of the infant's brain triples during the first three months of life. Optimal levels of DHA are therefore crucial for pregnant and lactating mothers. Unfortunately, the average DHA content of breast milk in the United States is the lowest in the world, most likely because Americans eat comparatively little fish. Making matters worse is the fact that the United States is the only country in the world where infant formulas are not fortified with DHA. This despite a 1995 recommendation by the World Health Organization that all baby formulas should provide 40 mg of DHA per kilogram of infant body weight. Dr. Levine believes that postpartum depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and low IQs are all linked to the dismally low DHA intake common in the United States. Dr. Levine also points out that low DHA levels have been linked to low brain serotonin levels which again are connected to an increased tendency to depression, suicide, and violence. DHA is abundant in marine phytoplankton and cold-water fish and nutritionists now recommend that people consume two to three servings of fish every week to maintain DHA levels. If this is not possible, Dr. Levine suggests supplementing with 100 mg/day of DHA.
Levine, Barbara S. Most frequently asked questions about DHA. Nutrition Today, Vol. 32, November/December 1997, pp. 248-49
Hyperactive children lack essential fatty acids
WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA. Children suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive. Researchers at Purdue University now report that hyperactive children have lower levels of key fatty acids in their blood than do normal children. Their experiment involved 53 boys aged 6 to 12 years of age who suffered from ADHD, but were otherwise healthy and 43 matched controls. Analyses showed that the boys with ADHD had significantly lower levels of arachidonic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic acids in their blood. The hyperactive children suffered more from symptoms associated with essential fatty acid deficiency (thirst, frequent urination, and dry hair and skin) and were also much more likely to have asthma and to have had many ear infections. The researchers conclude that ADHD may be linked to a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids (linolenic, eicosapentaenoic, and docosahexaenoic acids) or a poorer ability to convert 18-carbon fatty acids to longer more highly unsaturated acids. The researchers conclude that supplementation with the missing fatty acids may be a useful treatment for hyperactivity.
Stevens, Laura J., et al. Essential fatty acid metabolism in boys with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 62, No. 4, October 1995, pp. 761-68
Fish oils may help dyslexic children
GUILDFORD, UNITED KINGDOM. Dyslexia is a fairly common condition which involves difficulties in learning to read and write, mirror reversals of letters and words, and poor short-term memory. Dyslexia is closely related to dyspraxia (problems with coordination and muscle control) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is estimated that about 10% of the populations of the United States and the United Kingdom suffer from dyslexia and 4% are severely affected. There was a 3-fold increase in the prevalence of learning disorders in the USA over the period 1976 to 1993 and 80% of the new cases involved dyslexia.
Dr. Jacqueline Stordy of the University of Surrey believes that dyslexia, dyspraxia, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder have one common denominator - a deficiency of long-chain fatty acids. She points to a study which found improved dark adaptation (a problem among dyslexics) after supplementation with 480 mg/day of docosahexaenoic acid (a main constituent of fish oil) for a month. Another study involving 15 dyspractic children found that supplementation with a proprietary mixture of tuna oil, evening primrose oil, thyme oil, and vitamin E for 4 months markedly improved their motor skills. The mixture provided 480 mg of docosahexaenoic acid, 35 mg of arachidonic acid, 96 mg of alpha-linolenic acid, 80 mg of vitamin E, and 24 mg of thyme oil daily. Dr. Stordy concludes that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements may benefit children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and notes that large, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are already underway to verify this hypothesis.
Stordy, B. Jacqueline. Dark adaptation, motor skills, docosahexaenoic acid, and dyslexia. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 323S-26S
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