Down’s Syndrome Treatment

HENRY TURKEL, MD (1903-1992) It was thirty years ago this year that Dr. Henry Turkel testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. His presentation was entitled, “Medical Amelioration of Down’s Syndrome Incorporating the Orthomolecular Approach.” Dr. Turkel was the very voice of experience, having pioneered the nutritional treatment for Down’s syndrome in the 1940s. Since then, he had successfully employed a combination of vitamins and other nutrients, plus some medication, with over 5,000 patients. In addition, Dr. Turkel wrote two key books: Medical Treatment of Downs Syndrome and Genetic Diseases and New Hope for the Mentally Retarded.  Abram Hoffer has written: “I first became interested in Down Syndrome when I heard about the work being done by Dr. Henry Turkel in Detroit many years ago. I published many of his papers in the Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry and its earlier versions. Dr. Turkel suffered the fate of almost all early pioneers. He had the nerve to make his claims when everyone ‘knew’ that children with genetic defects could not possibly be treated successfully.” Linus Pauling has specifically recognized Dr. Turkel’s work in his book, How to Live Longer and Feel Better: “The physician who has made the greatest effort to ameliorate Down Syndrome is Dr. Henry Turkel of Detroit , Michigan . . . I know Dr. Turkel, and I can testify to his sincerity and conviction. The results that he reports are striking. Many of the children show a reduction of developmental abnormalities, especially of the bones. Their appearance changes in the direction of normalcy. Their mental ability and behavior improve to such an extent that they are able to hold jobs and support themselves. Rapid growth (increase in height) occurs during the period when tablets are being taken, and the growth stops during the periods when they are not taken. My conclusion is that there is little danger that this treatment or treatment with supplementary nutrients would do harm, and there is evidence that the patients would receive significant benefit. . . I think that all (people with Down’s syndrome) — especially the younger ones — should try nutritional supplementation to see to what extent it benefits them.” (p 206, HTLLAFB, 2006 edition) Now, on behalf of the thousands of Down syndrome children whose lives have been changed by nutritional treatment, we proudly induct Dr. Henry Turkel into the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame.
VITAMINS FIGHT LEARNING DISABILITIES Nutritional supplements were used, with considerable success, to help overcome learning disabilities in children. In a well-designed clinical trial, “megavitamin” doses were seen to be safe and remarkably effective, even offering improvement in Downs Syndrome children. Dr. Ruth F. Harrell and associates published their important findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA (78:574-578)… in 1981! Although Medical Tribune picked the story up, it is likely that your doctor is as unaware of this research as I was until one of my chiropractic students showed it to me in ’93. The Harrell study was successful because her team gave LD kids much larger doses of vitamins than other researchers: over 100 times the ADULT (not child’s) RDA for riboflavin; 37 times the RDA for niacin (given as niacinamide); 40 times the RDA for vitamin E; and 150 times the RDA for thiamin. These are the quantities that evidently get results, and get them safely. Safety and effectiveness are the rule, not the exception, with therapeutic nutrition. Here is an abstract (summary) of this important article: “To explore the hypothesis that mental retardations are in part genetotrophic diseases (diseases in which the genetic pattern of the afflicted individual requires an augmented supply of one or more nutrients such that when these nutrients are adequately supplied the disease is ameliorated), we carried out a partially double-blind experiment with 16 retarded children (initial IQs, approximately 17-70) of school age who were given nutritional supplements or placebos during a period of 8 months. The supplement contained 8 minerals in moderate amounts and 11 vitamins, mostly in relatively large amounts. During the first 4- month period (double-blind) the 5 children who received supplements increased their average IQ by 5.0-9.6, depending on the investigator, whereas the 11 subjects given placebos showed negligible change. The difference between these two groups is statistically significant (P less than 0.05). During the second period, the subjects who had been given placebos in the first study received supplements; they showed an average IQ increase of at least 10.2, a highly significant gain (P less than 0.001). Three of the five subjects who were given supplements for both periods showed additional IQ gains during the second 4 months. Three of four children with Down syndrome gained between 10 and 25 units in IQ and also showed physical changes toward normal. Other evidence suggests that the supplement improved visual acuity in two children and increased growth rates. These results support the hypothesis that mental retardations are in part genetotrophic in origin.” What intrigues me most is the need to explore this area further, and medical reluctance to do so. As Lincoln said of the little girl who put her hand in the stocking, “It strikes me that there’s something in it.” I urge you to read the full paper: Harrell RF, Capp RH, Davis DR, Peerless J, Ravitz LR Can nutritional supplements help mentally retarded children? An exploratory study. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1981 Jan;78(1):574-8. Dr. Harrell, who had been publishing on vitamin effects on learning for over 30 years, was not inventing the idea of megavitamin therapy suddenly in one paper. Nor has the work ended; the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine is a good resource if you want to know more.
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