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Can Mineral Deficiencies Lead to Behavioral Problems in Children?

A while ago I received this story from David in England, who wrote:

I am following your work with great interest as I am trying to get more information about the subject of ADD / ADHD for a friend of mine who was put in charge of such a child at school. She was given no training for this work nor was she given any backup. She was relieved to find that she was not the only one with this problem!

Although the child has finally been moved to another specialized school, it is likely that she will meet the problem again and so I am forwarding any relevant information to her that I can find.

Best regards, and carry on the good work,

David


Attached was a story from the Sunday Times of London, dated July, 1997. The headline read, "Zinc Diet Reduces Violence in Youths" written by Steve Connor,a Science Correspondent. Mr. Connor had some interesting information to report on a possible link between certain mineral levels and antisocial behavior in children and teenagers. He wroth, "Scientists have discovered a link between violent behaviour and a chemical imbalance in the body that can be treated by diet. It raises the possibility of treating antisocial individuals with special nutrition." For more information on nutrition and behavior visit the ADHD LIbrary.

The story reported that a study on 135 males between the ages of 3 years old and 20 years old, each with a history of violence, has found that such individuals are much more likely to have high levels of copper and low levels of zinc compared with non-violent people. "Scientists believe such minerals influence behaviour because the body uses them to make chemical transmitters in the brain." The article refered to the work of Dr. William Walsh of the Health Research Institute in Naperville, Illinois.

Then the article went on to report, "preliminary experiments have shown that altering the diet of violent males can improve their behavior... It usually takes two to three months to overcome the copper-zinc imbalance. Copper and zinc tend to be concentrated in the hippocampus of the brain and the hippocampus is known to be associated with stress control."

Another study by Dr. Neil Ward, a senior lecturer in analytical chemistry at Surrey University, looked at Zinc deficiencies in juvenile offenders. "We think that it is a direct result of exposure to heavy metal toxins such as cadmium and lead which prevent the absorption of zinc. The people we studied had a poor diet with excessive amounts of sugar and alcohol, which is also known to reduce zinc absorption," Ward said.

A question to consider: How would your children ever be exposed to high levels of heavy metals like cadmiun or lead?

The most common way would be if you smoke in the house. Smoke from cigarettes has high levels of cadmium. I have tested several children in my practice for heavy metals exposure, and each one from the home of a parent that smokes had high levels of cadmium. High lead exposure is uncommon in the western United States, but is more common in older neighborhoods of the mid-west and the eastern United States where homes were often painted with lead based paints in the recent past.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.

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