Thursday, March 6, 2008

News article, "Supplements Don't Help Down Babies" & letter to editor

This news story came through the Google Alerts the other day and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I've seen plenty of these news headlines proclaiming that supplements are no good for people with DS.

So I wrote a letter to the Washington Post editor about this news article. Below is the article and the letter to the editor.

~ Qadoshyah

Supplements Don't Help Down Babies

Tuesday, March 4, 2008; HE02

Giving babies with Down syndrome supplements containing folate and other vitamins does nothing to improve their development, British researchers reported last week. The finding, published in the journal BMJ, may dampen parental enthusiasm for vitamin supplementation, which is widespread among families with a mentally retarded child.

To test a hypothesis suggested by previous studies, researchers at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter randomly assigned 156 babies younger than 7 months who had been born with Down syndrome to one of four groups. The first received daily supplements containing folic acid, another got antioxidants including Vitamin E, a third group received both and a fourth was given a placebo.

Compliance with the regimen was verified by blood tests, and neither parents nor researchers were told which substance the babies had received until the trial ended.

After 18 months, researchers assessed the cognitive and physical development of the infants. They found that supplementation had no effect on the achievement of developmental milestones, such as the ability to sit or stand unassisted, or on the number of words a baby understood or said.

"Parents who choose to give supplements to their children need to weigh their hope of unproven benefits against potential adverse effects from high-dose, prolonged supplementation," the researchers said.

-- Sandra G. Boodman


Dear Editor,

I read the article, Supplements Don't Help Down Babies, by Sandra Boodman.

I wanted to write and share some more information about the study which Sandra wrote about. The study's name is, Supplementation with antioxidants and folinic acid for children with Down's syndrome: randomised controlled trial.

The study claims that supplementation with antioxidants and folinic acid showed no benefit to children with Down syndrome. But, the study does not use appropriate dosing levels of antioxidants and therefore cannot truly see what benefit supplementation has on children with Down syndrome.

The study used very low doses of antioxidants in these children. Oxidative stress is known to be a large part of Down syndrome. In order for antioxidant supplementation to really help the individual with Down syndrome, much higher doses of supplements need to be given.

I am not promoting "mega-vitamin therapy," that is history. People just need to realize that higher doses (not mega doses though) of supplements need to be given to see much of any benefit.

It also should be noted that if someone reads the full text of the study, there were some differences between the children who took the supplements and the placebo group. The differences were not "statistically significant" so they are not reported in the abstract of the study or in the media.

Something else that needs to be acknowledged is the use of the RDA for people with Down syndrome. The RDA is for "generally all healthy people." This may not include people with a genetic abnormality which may make their metabolism and biochemical needs different than the general population. Sure, the RDA may be a good guideline, but it cannot be used as the standard for people with Down syndrome. The researchers did note this in their study. They say that the doses that were given to the children "may have been inadequate to affect biochemical pathways."

My 3 year old brother has Down syndrome. We give him Nutrivene-D Advanced Daily Antioxidant Supplement. It has proven to be extremely beneficial and helpful to him. It has changed his life dramatically. If it had not been for us starting him on Nutrivene-D at 8 months of age, he would not be as healthy and thriving as he is today.

I hope that people will not just believe all the news headlines that say all kinds of things ranging from "Supplements Don't Help Down Babies," to "Antioxidants don't help Down syndrome," or even "Supplements for Down's children 'Waste of cash'."

~ Qadoshyah Fish

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