Thursday, June 12, 2008

A World Filled with (Mis)Information

Recently a Web site promoting natural health alternatives and healthful foods posted an article questioning the safety of medications used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The article made unsubstantiated claims based on flawed interpretations of various scientific data.

Among its many false assertions, the article used a recent brain study to claim that stimulant medications actually stunt the growth of children’s brains. That is despite the fact that not one person in peer-reviewed, published science, including the researcher himself, has made that deduction based on the research findings.

The research cited showed that there were children with AD/HD who experienced a delay in brain maturation when compared to those without the disorder. The takeaway—and one always has to be careful with takeaways based on just one study—was that delay in brain growth is a product of the disorder, not caused by its treatment.

The article also claimed that a recent follow-up to the landmark Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with AD/HD (MTA) concluded that medication loses its effectiveness after a period of time. Yet, according to the lead researchers on the MTA, this was not necessarily the conclusion from the follow-up study’s findings. The study did affirm the need for continuous supports and interventions for treatment success to be maintained.

Because I value you as a reader, I will not continue to burden you with the unscientific misinformation that was presented in this article. The bottom line is that this author has a viewpoint to sell. He advocates diet elimination and supplementation plans as a way to treat AD/HD. But the scientific research that has been conducted in this area has found no evidence that eliminating foods from or adding supplements to one’s diet makes any difference in the treatment of AD/HD, a neurobiological disorder. Research has demonstrated the potential value of Omega 3 fatty acids, whether in your diet or with supplements.

Research has shown that a combination of education adaptations, parent training, behavioral intervention strategies, education about the disorder, and medication are the most effective ways to treat the disorder. There is no denying the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But there is no evidence, at least so far, that diet makes any difference in treating AD/HD.

I plan to dedicate the next couple of blog entries to explaining how we can all become more discerning in evaluating the information we receive. I also plan to discuss the role CHADD plays in disseminating accurate and science-based information. We will discuss the media’s constant need for a new headline, and how this frequently leads to more misinformation. I hope you will continue reading.


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