Vitamin Supplements May Curb Disruptive Behavior in Kids

Vitamin Supplements May Curb
Disruptive Behavior in Kids

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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According to a new study published in the February 2000 issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2000; 6:7-17) vitamins may be helpful in deterring violent and anti-social behavior among children with disruptive behaviors who may be suffering from nutritional deficiencies.

The study found that vitamin and mineral supplementation of school-age children (ages 6 to 12 years old) with behavioral problems led to a reduction in incidence of anti-social behavior.

Previous studies have shown similar findings among older institutionalized offenders, ages 13 to 17 and 18 to 26. The study authors in this case wanted to see if testing of school-aged children in this case a group of working-class children in Phoenix who were known to be disruptive would reveal similar results, with the hope that early intervention could prevent later violent and anti-social behavior.

Over a four-month period, one group of 40 subjects was given daily supplements formulated to provide the nutritional equivalent of vitamins and minerals present in a well-balanced diet; the other group of 40 received placebo. Subjects were later rated on differences in types of serious rule violations that occurred during intervention period. Violations included vandalism, refusal to work, uttering obscenities, being disrespectful, disorderly conduct, assault/battery and defiance, among others.

The study, led by Stephen J. Schoenthaler, professor of sociology and criminal justice at California State University, Stanislaus, and Ian D. Bier, of LB Scientific, LLC, Durham, N.H., found that of the children who were disciplined during the school year, the 40 who received the active supplements were disciplined 47 percent less during the intervention process than those who received placebo.

"Poor nutritional habits in children," wrote the authors, "lead to low concentrations of water-soluble vitamins in blood, impair brain function and subsequently cause violence and other serious anti-social behavior." The nutrient supplements, they theorized, corrected the low concentrations of vitamins in blood, improved brain function and lowered the incidence of violent and anti-social behaviors.

The authors cautioned that findings "do not imply that human behavior is not largely a learned phenomena. The fact that most children cease to be behavioral problems after one or two incidents is evidence that most children prefer rewards over escalating sanctions and they have learned from their experiences with the school administration." However, the researchers argued that their findings have important ramifications for a minority of children for whom both rewards and sanctions are not effective. For this group, there is evidence that "undiagnosed and untreated malnutrition may be impairing their brain function to such an extent that normal learning from discipline does not occur."

With low-dose supplementation of vitamins and minerals, according to researchers, the 40 offenders in the group "were able to appreciate the seriousness of their actions and the disciplinary consequences."

Schoenthaler and Bier urged wider application of medical and nutritional intervention as one possible approach to improving the behavior of disruptive and anti-social children.


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