Last night I watched a PBS Frontline episode called "The Medicated Child." The show covered many aspects of the unfortunate -- and most likely unnecessary -- phenomenon of prescribing antipsychotic and/or behavioral medications, such as lithium and ritalin, to children as young as 3-years-old who are diagnosed as ADHD or bipolar. Arguments were provided for both sides of the issue, but in the end it seems plain obvious that kids should absolutely not be given meds that have never been fully evaluated to be safe and effective for adolescents and infants. It is also readily apparent that drug companies could care less who they're hurting by encouraging widespread use of these potent medications. This is especially evident when Frontline reveals that drug companies suddenly became interested in testing the effects of behavioral meds on children only when the Clinton administration gave adequate monetary incentive for doing so.
But all of that is another issue having more to do with politics and ethics. A far more intriguing question that I would like to address is: why are children exhibiting behavioral abnormalties? What is the root of all this madness? Surely it's not a deficiency in meds!
When I seek to answer a question like this, I always consider nutrition and physical health to be huge contributers. And I always think of my good buddy, Weston A. Price. This man truly observed something revolutionary about the physical and mental health of primitive populations on poor diets, and it is this radical observation that I thought of immediately when I saw a particular scene in The Medicated Child:
A woman is explaining the inadequate brain activity of a young boy to his family through the use of a color-coded brainscan. One sees the boy's brain and its array of greens, oranges, yellows, and reds. Then, next to that, a "normal" brain is shown with a very different color pattern. The woman points to different areas in the boy's brain and says, "This is abnormal and indicates that there is not very much activity here." Okay, so far very interesting. Then she turns the family's attention to a part of the brain called some fancy scientific name, which is visibly smaller than a normal brain. "That's where the problem is," she tells the family, who all seem very impressed.
My question is: What the heck is so impressive about this diagnoses? Where are the answers as to why this happened in the first place? How is this a satisfying experience in the least bit?
Parents: "Wow, thanks, doc. You're a life saver."
Stop. Hold the phone. Why? Why is his brain abnormal? Just because? Of course not. There are simple answers that are easily overlooked by all of the "experts" because they're used to thinking about things in such a complex fashion. What if, for example, the son is nutritionally deficient? What if he needs an improved diet? While nutrition appears to be the most fundamental root cause of illness -- especially when we see these kids on Frontline eating twinkies and corn dogs and goldfish crackers -- these are questions that are never addressed by the doctors. ADHD caused by too much sugar? Naw, couldn't be! Could it be that these children need more animal fats and proteins in their diets? No way -- that stuff causes heart disease!
It seems like the further we progress scientifically, the more we forget the simple questions and answers. For example, when "experts" are asked why more and more kids are diagnosed as bipolar, the answer is unsatisfying:
Top experts offer a range of reasons. They acknowledge some of the increase is likely due to bipolar being mislabeled; some think "bipolar disorder" has become a catch-all diagnosis for kids with a range of problems. But many experts say the increase is simply because doctors are better at identifying bipolar in children today than they were 10 years ago. They believe these kids have always existed, but that doctors failed to recognize the symptoms of bipolar and called these children oppositional or diagnosed them with ADHD. Some experts also cite evidence of a genetic link behind the rise in childhood bipolar, and some even speculate that environmental factors are playing a role in triggering childhood bipolar. source
First of all, that's quite an assumption that these kinds of kids have "always existed." A quick evaluation of primitive populations will find the opposite to be true. Second, not one of these mainstream experts even speculates the cause may be related to diet. Yet, even if we are to attribute behavioral abnormalities to nutrition, we still don't get a satisfying answer. Even if we instruct families to cut out sugar and other junk foods and add more animal fats/proteins to the diet, and as a result we see dramatic shifts in a child's behavior, we still haven't answered the question of "why does the child have a smaller, more compressed brain structure than a normal brain?" And why is this phenomenon becoming more and more common? Again, we return to nutrition as the root cause, but this time let's focus on the diet the child was raised on and the diet of the parents before conception and during pregnancy. Now we're getting somewhere.
Here we return to good ol' Dr. Price. His study of primitive populations showed that, with inadequate nutrition of the parents in the prenatal period and when provided with a deficient diet postnatally (during the formative years when still growing), a child develops facial, skeletal, and dental deformities. In other words, rather than a child having a nice round face, square jaw, wide nasal passage, and all 32 teeth, the child has a narrow face, sagging cheeks, pinched nostrils, and crooked teeth. All of these changes are due to inadequate nutrition, not genetics. And with these deformities comes an overall more "squished" brain due to poor formation of the skull. This can potentially lead to poor blood flow and, thus, abnormal brain function. Children with ADHD have 3-4% less brain volume than children without ADHD.
To further add to the argument of poor nutrition/poor skeletal development being the cause of behavioral disorders, it's interesting to note that every single child in The Medicated Child exhibited facial deformities. Most kids had overbites, some were mouth breathers, and all had narrow faces. For a visual example, return to the top of this post and observe the child on the DVD cover.
In summary, I theorize that the root of behavioral abnormalities is:
- Inadequate nutrition (animal fats/proteins) of parents prenatally
- Inadequate nutrition of child postnatally, during developmental years
- A combination of the above leads to the child's skeletal deformities, part of which is comprimised brain volume due to underdeveloped skull
- Smaller brain volume, in addition to poor diet, leads to poor brain function and, thus, behavioral abnormalities
For a fascinating article on facial and dental deformities, check out this article: "Is it Mental or is it Dental: Cranial and Dental Impacts on Total Health," by Raymond Silkman, DD.