I've been treating patients of all ages for over 35 years now. In that time, I have had plenty of concerned parents tell me that little junior (the condition is four times more common in boys) is having problems at school. The teachers complain that he is constantly moving around, won't (or can't?) pay attention to what they're teaching, and gets abnormally distracted. The next thing they know, their child "was evaluated by our school psychologist," and has been labeled with a diagnosis of either attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If there is comfort in numbers, these parents should be very assured. Because ADD and ADHD have become so common that according to a 1999 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report, these disorders are diagnosed in as many as one in every 20 children. And now, more and more adults receive this diagnosis. Here's why the drug companies want you, your children, and your grandchildren to have ADD.
One thing you can definitely know about the drug industry is that it is not going to miss an opportunity to sell drugs to one in every 20 people, even if they are children. You also can be sure that they're going to do everything they can to expand their market. So today, we are blessed with a whole series of drugs designed to tranquilize little Johnny's brain, and make him more manageable in school. The number one drug is Ritalin, and today the number of children taking Ritalin is over two million. That's about 85% of all children diagnosed with the disorder.
But, of course, my readers know that neither ADHD nor ADD is caused by a deficiency of drugs. Thus, the drugs only suppress symptoms without addressing cause. What's worse is that the long-term side effects from the use of these medications are serious. The August 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that one side effect was stunted growth. They were able to measure a decrease in both muscle and bone growth in children taking Ritalin. And since the brain and the immune system also undergo significant growth in children, it makes sense to assume that the drugs will equally affect these systems.
The medications also result in respiratory problems, destruction of the nasal and sinus cavities, damaged lung tissue, irregular heartbeats (heart arrhythmia), circulatory disorders, psychotic episodes, increased aggression, toxic shock, and even death. All this in spite of the fact that nutritional research has shown that ADD and ADHD can be completely reversed in 80% of children by eliminating processed foods and chemical food additives from their diets. One of those food additives is sodium benzoate.
A carefully designed study released in the September 5, 2007 issue of the leading British medical journal, The Lancet, shows that sodium benzoate - an ingredient in many soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, and other foods - causes ADD and ADHD in susceptible children. Dr. Philip Shaw, a researcher in the child psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Mental Health calls it "an extremely good study." The study prompted Britain's Food Standards Agency to issue an immediate advisory to parents to limit their children's intake of additives if they have symptoms of ADD or ADHD.
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The research, led by Jim Stevenson, a professor of psychology at England's University of Southampton, looked at 153 three and four year olds and 144 eight and nine year olds. All of the children spent a week drinking each of three different fruit drinks. The first week, they drank an additive-free drink. The next week, they drank one that contained the amount of dyes, colors, and sodium benzoate found in the average British child's diet. The last week, they drank one that contained the additives, but had a lower concentration of them. During each week-long period, the researchers had their parents and teachers evaluate them for restlessness, lack of concentration, fidgeting, and talking or interrupting too much. At no time did the teachers or parents know what drink the child was getting.
Stevenson found that children in both age groups were significantly more hyperactive when drinking the stuff containing additives. Surprisingly, the three-year-olds were much less sensitive to the lower dose of additives than were the older kids. And not surprisingly, there were big individual differences in sensitivity in both groups. The effects of the additives were enough for Dr. Stevenson to comment that "these adverse effects could affect the child's ability to benefit from the experience of school." He noted that in a separate pilot study, he found that kids often become hyperactive within only one hour of consuming food additives. The researchers concluded, "Artificial colors or a sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet result in increased hyperactivity in three-year-old and eight-and-nine-year-old children in the general population."
But sodium benzoate may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to Dr. James Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard, "My guess is that if we do similarly systematic work with other additives, we'd learn they, too, have implications for behavior." Dr. Perrin adds, "My friends who study the food industry say we have about 70,000 new products a year, so children are facing tremendous numbers of new opportunities for things that may not be good for them."
Now I'm not saying that medications are never needed - even in children. But I think it's pretty obvious that drugging up a child for life before trying something as simple and safe as prescribing nutritional supplements and eliminating sugar and junk food does not make any sense at all. Please always remember that one of the most wonderful mysteries of life is that God designed your body to heal itself. All you have to do is to help it. In this case, helping it means getting the chemicals out of the diet. It can work for the children. And it can work wonders for you whether you have ADD/ADHD or not.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Block, Mary Ann. "No more Ritalin; treating ADHD without drugs." Kensington Press, October 1, 1997.
Adams, Mike. "Ritalin stunts growth of children; long-term risk to children's health unknown," Monday, July 23, 2007, http://www.newstarget.com/021944.html.
McCann, D., A. Barrett, A. Cooper, et al. "Food additives and hyperactive behavior in three-year-old and eight-and-nine-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial." Lancet. 2007 September 5, PMID: 17825405.
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