This Week in Parenting Science 4/1/11

April 1, 2011

Alternative Treatments for Colic Don’t Work – Your baby is crying constantly, the pediatrician doesn’t have any answers, and you’re at the end of your rope. So, you reach for the phone and make an appointment for the chiropractor, get in your car and zoom off to find some “gripe water”, and seriously consider switching to soy formula. HOLD IT! A recent meta-analysis in the journal Pediatrics compiles multiple studies that all seem to show that colic can’t be cured by any popular folk remedy or alternative treatment. The best cure for colic is infinite patience.

Food Dyes and ADHD – Probably Not – I wrote an article on here several years back about ADHD. Someone from an organization representing the Feingold Diet tore me to shreds with a list of research that seemed to indicate a food dye origin to hyperactivity. It turns out that I’m not the only one who was skeptical of the supposed evidence, the FDA reviewed the research and most in the panel found the studies on the link between food dyes and ADHD to be lacking.  There doesn’t seem to be a clear definitive link between food dyes and ADHD, but the panel did say that they haven’t completely closed the book on the possibility of a link.

Paracetamol and Asthma Linked? – Take some caution in the news that a recent meta-analysis of several studies seems to show that paracetamol taken during pregnancy may be linked to the child having symptoms of wheezing as a baby. Further research needs to be done before we make any definitive correlation.


Suspect ADHD: Tell the Parents?

July 16, 2010

Educators have it rough. They’re responsible for the welfare of an entire class of diverse personalities and behavior profiles. If even one child is hard to manage, the rest of the class suffers.

I’ve recently encountered this problem, where one child has dominated the class with an inability to regulate self-control. I’ve had a week filled with this student shouting in my face, hitting the other kids, ignoring authority, talking during quiet time, and generally disrespecting others. And now that the week is close to over, I’m quite confident that this child may very well have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and should be seen by a qualified professional. I would be shocked if the true culprit wasn’t the regulation of dopamine.

The problem that I’m having is that I don’t know if it’s my place to mention my concerns to this young child’s parents. The class is only for a week. I know nothing about this family or whether they will accept my advice warmly. I’m concerned for the student’s future progress, and whether this kid will prosper academically without medication.

So, what would you do? I’m open to suggestions.


ADHD and Autism: The Gene Hunt Continues!

July 18, 2008

 

What causes autism and ADHD?  Are they born from environmental toxins, or are they genetic disorders?  Or perhaps both?  Scientists are scrambling to find answers by interpreting the complex gene code, performing studies, and publishing peer reviewed papers.  Meanwhile, autism activists and Feingold Diet proponents are speculating that autism and ADHD are respectively caused by vaccines and artificial food coloring.  I doubt it on both counts, but at least Feingolders have collected some scientific data (in the decades since the diet was first proposed) to help corroborate their claims.  The vaccine crowd, on the other hand, have resorted to anecdotes, misleading propaganda, and bad biased science to support their speculations.

Well, for the first time, scientists have revealed two promising leads to understanding the genes that cause both autism and ADHD.  I doubt that these findings will quiet the alarmists quacking about toxins; they’ll just say that the environment triggered the genes.  I’m not sure how such a triggering would work, but inevitably something like that must be proven.  I’m open to an explanation, since I plead ignorance on the topic.  But, it seems to me, that if the microscopic antigens in vaccines can trigger genetic disorders, then so can anything, really.  Unless your kid lives in a bubble.  

On the autism front, Harvard researchers have identified inactive learning genes in the DNA of individuals with autism.  These genes are different than previously identified genes for autism because they are not permanently disabled.  This indicates that the new genes can be stimulated and activated; it gives hope to parents that early intervention and therapy can help their child make progress.

As far as ADHD, the genetic discovery by scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center can be isolated to a biological rewiring of the dopamine transporter.  This protein behaves as if amphetamines are present and causes dopamine to flow backwards.*  The research indicates that children with ADHD have pathways of neurons that are disturbed in similar ways to the disturbances caused by amphetamines, but of course amphetamines are a complex drug that affect the brain in ways that make it an imperfect analogy. 

The discovery that dopamine is flowing backwards gives encouragement to the advice (and science) that Ritalin, a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, can help prevent symptoms of ADHD.  I’m not sure how Feingolders will interpret the discovery, but I know from previous responses to my posts that an ADHD gene will be news to them. 

*Update*  An ADHD gene is not news to them, even though Shula Edelkind said this in the comments of my last post:  “no scientist has yet discovered any such gene”, which would imply that the discovery is news to them.


ADHD – Additives, Diets, Herbs, and Deniers

June 12, 2008

ADHD (Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder) is either a myth or a harmful psychiatric neuro-behavioral disorder signified by poor attention and/or hyperactivity and impulse control problems.  There is no known cure for ADHD, but people think they can control it with drugs or supplements.

Some skeptics debate that ADHD is a valid psychiatric malady, but like it or not, the condition is diagnosed in 3-5% of children.  It’s a real problem with unknown causes that run the spectrum from genetic to dietary to behavioral.

Nobody knows the real causes of ADHD, which is why there have been all kinds of speculation and research.  One ADHD denier is John Rosemond, a faith based parenting dick (I mean guru).  He believes that hyperactivity and attention problems stem from bad parenting and unrestricted TV and video games.  Of course, his anecdotal ideas may have some merit, but they’re a little too simplistic and arrogant to be considered valid.

What about diet?  Studies have consistently shown that sugar by itself does not contribute to ADHD.  Lately there have been calls by some scientists to reintroduce the idea that food additives trigger ADHD.  The progenitor of this debate has been the Feingold Association, who promote a very strict diet based on available scientific research.

The Feingold diet has been touted by it’s proponents as a miracle cure for all kinds of problems, but the fact is that there have not been adequate scientific studies to back up all of these claims.  Certainly, anecdotal evidence is strong among Feingold dieters, but the shotgun approach of such a severe change in diet makes it hard to determine why it may work.  Is it because of the removal of salicylates and food additives… or because of other factors?

The standard treatment for ADHD has been Ritalin, an over-prescribed(?) drug that makes parents concerned and scientologists foam at the mouth with anger.  Some supplements have been proven to help children with ADHD:  magnesium, L Carnitine, iron, zinc, and possibly fatty acid supplements, and vitamin B6.  These supplements should be taken in consultation with a doctor.

One herb has just recently been crossed off the supplement list.  A recent study revealed that St. John’s Wort is not an effective treatment for ADHD, not that anybody thought it was effective in the first place.

This is a topic in which I welcome feedback.  I plan on adding to and editing this post as I learn more information in the future, so please feel free to respond.

Latest ADHD News:

Anthropologist Dan Eisenberg compared tribes in Kenya.  He noticed that tribesmen with the ADHD-associated gene were remarkably better nourished than those without the gene.  This may prove that ADHD can be seen as a naturally selected advantage in some situations.


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