This WDDTY article has also been placed in Families magazine (it’s not the first time WDDTY have weaselled their dangerously misleading claptrap into a mainstream family-oriented publication). You might feel motivated to contact the magazine and warn them that they’ve been had.
School’s about to get tougher this September, but you can boost your child’s brain power at any age
This is one of those statements beloved of cranks and charlatans which is, according to the evidence, false. Virtually everything ever sold as “boosting” intelligence, from Omega-3 oils to brain gym, is essentially fraudulent, promoted on the basis of tiny studies run by people selling the product.
[…] WDDTY has assembled seven of the most important steps you can take to ensure your child can keep up with the new demands on brain power, and five things that are sure to lead to dumbing down. Although many of the steps have to do with nutrients and diet, other practices and environmental influences have measurable effects on the IQ (intelligence quotient) too.
This is the important bit because it asserts that:
- These things will have a measurable effect on IQ (let’s not go into why IQ is irrelevant);
- These are the most important steps you can take.
What’s the betting they are bullshit? No takers? Oh well.
The good news is that it’s not too late even if your children are already in their teens. Brain research shows that its neural structure is not hard-wired from childhood, as we used to believe, but plastic—or changeable—depending on nutrition and other factors like which parts of the brain are being used.
Brian plasticity is a fertile ground for quacks right now. It is a thing, but the evidence that you can use it to make wholesale changes is weak. Wikipedia has an article that’s probably worth reading: malleability of intelligence.
- Give them protein for breakfast and don’t let them leave home without eating
This hardly qualifies as something your doctor doesn’t tell you and may be included in order to get the later conspiracist payload past the editors of mainstream publications.
The evidence is actually not particularly robust, but it’s plausible and most authorities advise a good breakfast before school.
When two groups of children were tested again as adolescents, those who’d been given a high-protein diet as babies had higher verbal IQ scores, and brain scans revealed their caudate nuclei were larger.1
Source 1: Pediatr Res, 2008; 63: 308-14. It would be necessary to unpick other dietary factors. Here’s the paper, which specifically discussed preterm births:
To test the hypothesis that the caudate nucleus could be a neural substrate for cognitive effects of early nutrition, we compared two groups of adolescents, assigned a Standard- or High-nutrient diet in the postnatal weeks after preterm birth.
So, this is of questionable relevance to full term births (preterm infants are a very specific set of children with significant numbers of complications depending on exactly how early they are born).
Suffice it to say that, in the words of Ben Goldacre, “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”.
Serving a high-protein breakfast makes children more alert because it lowers levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
The source doesn’t say that, as far as I can tell.
Although we tend to load children with processed carbohydrates for breakfast, usually in the form of processed cereals, carbs—which promote the production of serotonin—tend to make you drowsy. If you opt instead for healthy cereals like muesli, add nuts to boost the protein content.
Oooh, processed. No wonder it’s evil. Oh wait: virtually everything we eat is “processed” in some way, even if the only processing is washing or removing a shell.
And make eating breakfast non-negotiable. If your child refuses to eat much, make a high-protein smoothie with yoghurt or tofu.
Yes, a massive confrontation before school is bound to really help.
- Make sure they eat their greens (and yellows, reds and oranges)
Again, this hardly qualifies as a thing doctors don’t tell you, and again it’s possible that it’s there to pass the “truthiness” test and get the reader onboard and receptive to the later payload of bullshit.
No doubt about it anymore. New evidence shows that children who eat a diet high in fruit and veg have higher IQs than those who subsist on a diet of processed and sugary foods.
Post-hoc fallacy sensors are twitching here.
Based on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which tracked some 14,000 children born in 1992 and 1992, a recent five-year analysis showed a direct correlation between eating habits and IQ scores.
J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech.2010.111955.
Conclusion There is evidence that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar and processed food content in early childhood may be associated with small reductions in IQ in later childhood, while a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods described at about the time of IQ assessment may be associated with small increases in IQ.
The relevance of IQ remains questionable, and there is no obvious way of controlling for coincident factors – it is vastly more likely that children of more intelligent, better educated parents, with correspondingly higher genetic predisposition to intelligence, will eat a better diet. The effect is weak enough that listing this at No. 2 seems on the face of it to be hard to defend.
If your children are preschool, it’s the best time to start if you want maximum benefits, although it’s never too late to turn a bad diet around.2
Reference 2: JEpidemiol Community Health, 2012; 66: 624-8, as above. Note how a tentative conclusion with much hedging, passed through the filter of WDDTY’s Ideology-O-Tron, turns into firm and definitive conclusions. It’s like the Daily Mail only worse.
- Ditch all dental fluorides
This is (a) complete tosh and (b) actively harmful.
Reducing dental fluoridation will result in one thing, and one thing only: children with worse teeth. Contrary tot he hysterical scaremongering of WDDTY and its fellow travellers, dentists are not, in fact, pursuing a pro-fluoride agenda as tools of their sinister chemical industry paymasters, they promote use of dental fluoride because all the evidence says it improves dental health.
Research shows that fluoride is a neurotoxin that accumulates in brain tissue and affects brain development, yet chances are your children and you are drowning in the stuff. On average, we ingest up to 1,000 times more fluoride than any other heavy metal through fluoridated water, food and dental products that have added fluoride.
This is the “toxin gambit”. If you drink enough water, you’ll die. There is no credible evidence that exposure to fluoride at the levels recommended by dentists poses any risk whatsoever.
The latest evidence from Harvard confirms that high levels of fluoride in drinking water dramatically lower IQs in children, and may even cause or exacerbate learning difficulties in children born with lower IQs. The researchers, who analyzed 27 previously published papers, found a direct link between IQ scores and levels of fluoride in the public water supply. Children living in low-fluoride areas consistently had IQ scores a significant 0.45 points higher than children in high-fluoride regions—a difference that can also have a substantial negative impact on children already at the lower end of the IQ spectrum by causing greater learning difficulties.3
Reference 3 is Environ Health Perspect, 2012; 120: 1362-8; see also the press release, authors’ statement and followup study.
As the authors say,
These results do not allow us to make any judgment regarding possible levels of risk at levels of exposure typical for water fluoridation in the U.S. On the other hand, neither can it be concluded that no risk is present. We therefore recommend further research to clarify what role fluoride exposure levels may play in possible adverse effects on brain development, so that future risk assessments can properly take into regard this possible hazard.
In the hands of WDDTY this morphs into: never let fluoride anywhere near your child, even though there is no evidence at all linking fluoride toothpaste to any of this and all the sources got o great lengths to say that any effect is entirely dependent on dose.
The followup paper makes this clear:
Results: Dental fluorosis score was the exposure indicator that had the strongest association with the outcome deficits, and the WISC-IV digit span subtest appeared to be the most sensitive outcome, where moderate and severe fluorosis was associated with a digit span total score difference of − 4.28 (95% CI − 8.22, − 0.33) and backward score with − 2.13 (95% CI − 4.24, − 0.02).
Dental fluorosis is a condition caused by excessive exposure to fluoride, generally in water supplies with high natural levels, or from dietary sources such as brick tea. Fluorosis from supplies with added fluoride is rare, and no documented fluorosis from toothpaste is evident in the cited sources.
Choose dental products like toothpaste free of fluoride (see page 86 for a good selection). If you’re worried about your child’s teeth, get an electric toothbrush, teach them how to floss properly and opt for fissure sealants for those especially at risk.
For comparison, read the CDC advice on fluoride, which says that once the permanent dentition has emerged, typically around 6 years, fluoride toothpaste should be used. This is in line with the advice of dentists.
- Feed them the good fats
Top of this list are, of course, the omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in fish oils. Fish oils contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are both omega-3 fats. EPA and DHA have numerous effects that make them superior to flaxseed and other vegetable sources of omega-3s.
Refuted. Follow the money.
Seriously. How hard is it to check well-known debunked claims? If there is one thing WDDTY ought to be able to do, it’s pick out profitable health scams; that is what they set themselves up as doing. But, as always, if the profit goes to their friends, they are perfectly content to promote the scam.
Flaxseed oils contain alpha-linolenic acid (LNA, used by the body to make EPA and DHA), but the amount of LNA converted to EPA can be very low.4
Source 4 is a WDDTY “twofer”: Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2000; 63: 287-92 and AmJ Clin Nutr, 2006; 83: S1467-76.
Technically sound enough, but of no obvious relevance given that randomised controlled trials show that Omega-3 makes no actual difference to educational performance. (the human body is good at homeostasis: normally if more than the required amount of any essential nutrient is ingested, it is simply excreted, at least up to its toxic dose).
Although it’s always been thought that 14 per cent of LNA is converted to EPA, in one study only 0.2 per cent of the LNA in a flaxseed oil supplement was available for conversion to EPA compared with 23 per cent of the EPA in fish oil available for conversion to DHA.5
Source 5: J Lipid Res, 2001; 42: 1257-65, Physiological compartmental analysis of alpha-linolenic acid metabolism in adult humans. Which concludes that “dietary eicosapentaenoic acid may be well utilized in the biosynthesis of 22:6n-3 in humans”.
Great news, but how is it relevant to children’s educational performance? The answer is, of course, that the evidence showing that Omega-3 makes no odds, means that it is not relevant.
I’d be frankly astounded in the WDDTY editors understood that paper, incidentally: it’s extremely difficult for a non-specialist to read, I didn’t understand it, but unlike WDDTY I don’t mind admitting that.
Copious research confirms that fish-oil supplements can dramatically accelerate learning.
No, it really does not. In fact, randomised controlled trial evidence directly refutes it.
In one small study, after just three months of taking two supplements a day of VegEPA, which contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, children were a year ahead of their peers in reading ability, and demonstrated far neater and more accurate handwriting.
“One small study”. Versus a large RCT.
Brain scans also showed far higher levels of NAA (N-acetylaspartate), a biochemical indicator of brain development, an improvement normally seen only after three years of growth. The study children were also encouraged to cut down on fast foods and fizzy drinks, and to exercise more.6
That’s what they call “confounders” in the trade. Source 6 is a BBC News article from 2007 parroting the claims of Omega-3 advocates.
Why cite a 2007 study which alludes to a trial without then quoting the results of the trial?
Despite the wide range of cognitive and behavioural outcome measures employed, only three significant differences between groups were found after 16 weeks, one of which was in favour of the placebo condition. Exploring the associations between changes in fatty acid levels and changes in test and questionnaire scores also produced equivocal results. These findings are discussed in relation to previous findings with clinical populations and future implications for research.
So, the studies showing that Omega-3 levels can be boosted, are not contentious, but they are begging the question. The idea that this has any meaningful effect, is not supported by the latest and best available evidence.
[…] when omega-3s are consumed, they interfere with the triglyceride process and reestablish healthy nerve growth.7
Source 7: Br J Nutr, 2013; 109: 1573-89 . A study looking at neurogenesis in obese adults, nothing to do with cognitive performance is mentioned, but potential modifiers for behaviours related to obesity are: “Exploration of the effects of nutraceuticals on neurogenic brain regions may encourage the development of new rational therapies in the fight against obesity”.
This paper is not obviously relevant to the claims it is being used to support.
And don’t shy away from fish. Although concerns have been raised about mercury levels and other pollutants in fish, researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health believe that the goodness in fish outweighs any dangers from the methylmercury they absorb from swimming in polluted waters. Also, two servings of oily fish a week can protect a child from ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), they say.8
Oh the irony. WDDTY promotes the entirely bogus claim that ethylmercury in vaccines causes autism, but happily pushes methylmercury even though it is a potent neurotoxin (which ethyl mercury is not).
Reference 8: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2012; 166, 1123-31.
Low-level prenatal mercury exposure is associated with a greater risk of ADHD-related behaviors, and fish consumption during pregnancy is protective of these behaviors. These findings underscore the difficulties of balancing the benefits of fish intake with the detriments of low-level mercury exposure in developing dietary recommendations in pregnancy.
Se the word “prenatal”? By the time your child is at school, it’s probably a bit late.
For supplements, nutritional expert Dr Leo Galland, author of Superimmunity for Kids, recommends one 15-mL Tbsp of flaxseed oil or a 5-mL tsp of cod liver oil a day, or 2 Tbsp of walnut oil daily. One caveat: fish oils can lower blood levels of vitamin E (and other fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A), so if you give your children fish-oil supplements, make sure to give them at least 100 IU of vitamin E to counteract this effect.9 Or simply add fish to the diet.
Source 9: another twofer, Am J Clin Nutr, 1993; 58: 98-102 and Br J Nutr, 1992; 68: 163-73. The former study on Healthy men (ages 24-57), the latter on “nine healthy male subjects”.
Supplements to “fix” the effects of other changes you made to “fix” something they don’t fix anyway. How about this for an alternative? Eat a normal, healthy balanced diet and forget the expensive supplements.
Leo Galland reportedly believes that Kathleen Hanna had “chronic Lyme disease” or possibly the real Lyme disease. Make of that what you will.
Don’t overlook saturated fats
Although the received wisdom has it that saturated fats are bad for children and contribute to ADHD, they actually assist in the conversion of EFAs into the long-chain forms the body needs. Saturated fatty acids are mostly present in animal fats, which also carry copious amounts of vitamins D and A, also crucial for brain development (see number 5). In fact, parents who restrict saturated fats like butter and meat in the belief that they contribute to ADHD may simply be making the problem worse. Always choose butter over margarine and full-fat milk over skimmed (and preferably use organic milk that hasn’t been homogenized and, if possible, pasteurized).
Wait, let’s just read that again:
preferably use organic milk that hasn’t been homogenized and, if possible, pasteurized
Thanks to recent tragic events in Australia, the world is now much more aware of the reasons why milk is pasteurised.
This perfectly exemplifies WDDTY’s approach: the triumph of ideology over sanity.
- Chuck them outside
Children stay indoors so much these days in front of the TV or computer that nearly three-quarters of American children are low in vitamin D, the vitamin that mostly comes from sunshine, according to new data released by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This translates to up to 58 million American children with an “insufficiency” or downright deficiency of the vitamin, leading to high blood pressure, rickets and unhealthy bones. But the vitamin is also crucial for the health and development of the nervous system, including the brain. As Britain has even less sunshine than the US, it’s likely that the problem is every bit as severe in this country. Researchers blame the problem on sedentary lives spent indoors watching TV or playing computer games together with the overuse of powerful sunblocks.
So here we once again have WDDTY advocating exposing your children to direct sunlight without sunblock. Because, you know, skin cancer is natural.
Vitamin D deficiency does cause rickets. Most Western children do not have rickets, because most Western children are not deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D insufficiency is thought to be more common among older adults living in Northern latitudes, especially those with black skin and poor diets, but that has little to do with kids.
Yes, do let your kids play outside. Encourage it, even. But do it for the right reasons and protect them from strong sunlight.
So make sure that children are out in the sunshine for at least 15 to 20 minutes a day, says researcher Michal Melamed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University. And unless they burn easily, don’t put sunscreen on them until they’ve been out in the sun for at least 10 minutes.10
Reference 10: Pediatrics, 2009; 124: e362-70, which is at least relevant to children.
What does the paper say about sunscreen? Nothing. That is WDDTY’s editorialising, and we already know that their views on sunscreen are insane, and thanks to Dr. Margaret McCartney, so should they.
- Keep metal out of their mouths (and everywhere else)
Get rid of mercury in your own mouth (if you’re pregnant) and don’t allow your children to have ‘silver’ fillings—ever.
Complete nonsense. According to WDDTY mercury in fish is perfectly safe, mercury in vaccines causes autism, and mercury in fillings is toxic. In every case this is the opposite of the truth.
Having amalgam fillings removed may well expose you to far higher levels of mercury than leaving them in situ, and composite fillings have a limited life (think of the X-rays that will be sued before replacing fillings).
Research has found a direct link between levels of mercury in the mother’s hair at the time of birth and the likelihood of the child developing ADHD. One study found that for every 1 mcg/g (microgram per gram) of mercury in the mother’s hair sample, the child was 1.4 times more likely to be inattentive and 1.8 times more likely to be hyperactive by the age of eight.11
Source 11: Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2012; 166: 1182-4. A commentary. It would not be a surprise if environmental mercury had this effect, but there is no credible evidence that amalgam fillings do.
Like fluoride, the aluminium sulphate present in our water supply has also been found to cause brain damage.
Once again, the toxin gambit. The dose makes the poison, and when WDDTY says “the aluminium sulphate found in our water supply” they don’t actually mean the aluminium sulphate found in our water supply, they mean much higher concentrations of aluminium sulphate. Remember that the dihydrogen monoxide found in our water supplies is toxic.
After 20 tonnes of aluminium was accidentally emptied into a water reservoir serving 20,000 people in Cornwall, a considerable number of those affected began suffering from problems with memory and concentration, 400 of them even after two years.
Indeed. A shocking accident, and one which, as far as we can tell, is unique, It produced vastly higher levels of aluminium than normal. And when I say vastly higher, I really do mean it.
The maximum recorded aluminium concentration was 620,000 micrograms per litre compared with the maximum concentration admissible at the time by the European Community of 200 micrograms per litre. The normal level is of course below 200μg/l, as that’s the limit.
That’s over 3,000 times the normal exposure, and the effects, though measurable, are not acute, but chronic.
All of which really rather refutes the claim that normal levels of aluminium in water are any danger at all, and strongly supports the safety of the much more conservative limits normally applied.
When researchers examined them further and compared them with their siblings who hadn’t been exposed, they found similar blood concentrations of aluminium, but vast differences on actual test parameters.
Those who’d been exposed to the toxic dumping performed worse on tests measuring motor skills, memory and concentration, suggesting that the aluminium from the accident wasn’t in their blood at all, but had lodged in the brain.
The aluminium also caused elevated levels of sulphuric acid, which in turn caused lead and other contaminants to enter the water supply. WDDTY’s analysis is so facile that it’s really quite hard to anchor it back to reality.
Other studies have shown that exposure to aluminium causes changes in the brain similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease.12
Really? No, not really. According to the Alzheimer’s society:
During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
So, more alarmist claptrap from WDDTY.
Source 12: BMJ, 1999; 319: 807-11 (reliable); J Orthomol Med, 2000; 15: 21-51 (highly unreliable – orthomolecular quacks are the ones who promote vitamins as the cure for everything – hence it’s not indexed in the PubMeds).
Besides aluminium, children with developmental and behavioural problems may have high blood concentrations of lead. Researchers from the South & West Devon Health Authority examined samples from 69 ‘problem’ children and found significantly higher lead concentrations in their blood than in 136 normal control children; 12 per cent even had toxic concentrations (more than 100 mg/L) of the neurotoxic metal.13
Source 13: Arch Dis Child, 2001; 85: 286-8. Lead is of course a well-known neurotoxin, which is why tetra-ethyl lead is no longer used in petrol.
This finding is neither surprising nor remotely secret. The thing about Devon and the South-West is that it’s an area well known for the mining of lead, tin and other metals. And these make their way into the water. Naturally. If you drink spring water in the South-West, entirely unprocessed, you will almost certainly be exposing yourself to heavy metals. Better stick to tap water, which is tested for excessive levels of these things.
- Encourage them to meditate
Meditation appears to permanently enhance brain receptivity. Several studies have tested the effect of meditation on our ability to react to repetitive stimuli like light flashes or clicks. Ordinarily a person gets used to the clicks and so, in a sense, the brain switches off and stops reacting. But studies show that the brains of meditators continue to react to the stimuli—an indication of a heightened perception of every moment.14
Electroenceph Clin Neurophysiol, 1975; 39: 519-22; 1957; Suppl 7; 132-49. Too old to be indexed I think.
This may be sound but should be viewed with care, in the same way that studies on yoga have to be carefully assessed to see if there is a difference from any other form of gentle flexibility-based exercise (and guess what? There isn’t: the spiritual component is irrelevant).
We should remember that WDDTY’s editors have a tendency to believe in new age mumbo-jumbo, so treat any assertions in regard of spiritual earth mother behaviours with at least some skepticism.
Mindfulness meditation (non-judgmental focus on everyday activities with your five senses) helps meditators remain exquisitely sensitive to external stimuli. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital-East using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure minuscule changes in the brain discovered that experienced meditators have a significant increase of signalling in the neural structures of the brain involved in attention. This neural activity evolves over time and increases with meditative experience.15
Source 15: Neuroreport, 2000; 11: 1581-5. An unsurprising result that doctors told you.
Never cook with aluminium utensils and opt for an under-sink filtration system that removes all heavy metals like lead from the water supply. If your house is old, check what your pipes are made of too.
This one could have done with a source, but it didn’t get one. Because it’s rubbish.
Myth 4: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
So unlike WDDTY to peddle a decades-old refuted myth.
5 kiddy brain killers
1- Junk food
A diet heavy on ‘kiddy foods’ like fish fingers, fast-food burgers and other processed stuff prevents the brain from generating new nerve cells by suppressing hormones that protect neurons and stimulate their growth, while increasing the production of inflammatory molecules and triglyceride fats.1
Source 1: Br J Nutr, 2013; 109: 1573–89. “Relationships between dietary macronutrients and adult neurogenesis in the regulation of energy metabolism”, cited above. See that word “adult”? And the abstract ends:
Exploration of the effects of nutraceuticals on neurogenic brain regions may encourage the development of new rational therapies in the fight against obesity.
Relevance of adult obesity to educational performance in children is not explained.
And most processed foods contain trans fatty acids, which inhibit conversion to long-chain fatty acids like omega-3s.
Aside from lowering your child’s IQ, fast food increases the risk of severe asthma by a whopping 39 per cent in teens and 27 per cent in younger children. Researchers from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) came to this conclusion after surveying 319,000 teens and 181,000 six-year-olds living in 51 countries about the food they ate and illnesses they had. A clear association emerged between eating fast food and immune-related diseases like asthma and eczema.2
Source 2: Thorax. 2013 Apr;68(4):351-60. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-202285.
BACKGROUND: Certain foods may increase or decrease the risk of developing asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema. We explored the impact of the intake of types of food on these diseases in Phase Three of the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood
CONCLUSIONS: If the association between fast foods and the symptom prevalence of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis and eczema is causal, then the findings have major public health significance owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally.
The relevance to an article purportedly on intellectual performance is not explained. The anti-“processed”-because-natural agenda hardly needs to be pointed out.
It’s almost impossible to ban junk food from children’s diets altogether, but you can make it more difficult by never having it at home.
Sure. But then, this is just a pat on the back for the WDDTY readership because the mag is targeted at middle-class affluent mummies who would not have junk food int he house anyway.
WDDTY does this a lot: hands out “advice” that is blindingly obvious and consonant with the beliefs of its readers, a form of reinforcement that makes it more likely they will believe the gigantic dollops of codswallop that follow.
2- Fizzy drinks
While you’re at it, keep soft drinks out of the kitchen larder too. You may pop a teaspoon of sugar into your tea or coffee every morning, but every time children drink a 330-mL can of any soft drink, they’re swallowing some 10 teaspoonsful of sugar, which will certainly not help the learning go down.3 Get them into the habit of drinking water and juice at home.
Source 3: J Epidemiol Community Health, 2006; 60: 750, a paper on the role of sugar consumption in childhood obesity. Full text on the net, no mention of learning at all.
So this is another of WDDTY’s standard techniques: a finding (in this case a well known and obvious one) cited as a “reference” to an assertion that it simply does not support.
Wheat (as well as soy, barley and rye) has high levels of glutamic and aspartic acids, which can affect the brain’s neurons, causing overactivation of the nerve-cell receptors and possibly leading to nerve injury.4
Source 4: “Ji S. The Dark Side of Wheat—New Perspectives on Celiac Disease & Wheat Intolerance; available online at www.greenmedinfo.com”. Absolutely not a reliable source (in fact, promoting glutenbollocks).
As covered in our June 2013 issue, wheat is toxic to the brain because each grain of wheat contains a substance called ‘wheat germ agglutinin’ (WGA), which is highly toxic and inflammatory to the heart, brain and immune system.5 And the antioxidant agents in wheat called ‘phytates’ interfere with vital minerals (calcium, iron, zinc and magnesium) that are essential for the growing brain.
Source 5: Brain Res, 1986; 393: 169–75. Scarcely exciting new research, more like dumpster diving through the literature in order to support a hypothesis. And the title: Wheat germ agglutinin inhibits nerve fiber growth and concanavalin A stimulates nerve fiber initiation in cultures of dorsal root ganglia neurons. What happens when you try to transfer this finding in cultures, into human bodies? Tumbleweed. Yes, this was covered in June 2013. It was bollocks then as well, but we’ll have to get back to that when time permits.
Maybe WDDTY also hope that readers see “dorsal root ganglia” and think “BRANES“. They’d be wrong. These are spinal cord nerve ganglia.
4- Chinese takeaways and kiddy sweeteners
The flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame, the artificial sweetener in diet sodas, are considered ‘excitotoxins’, which are lethal to children’s brains.
Monosodium glutamate is a much-maligned chemical. It is entirely natural (the clue being the fact that we have a taste, umami, which specifically relates to glutamates. Far from being “lethal to children’s brains”, MSG is “generally recognised as safe“. The idea that MSG is bad apparently stems back to a single observation, but a 2006 study found:
Despite a widespread belief that MSG can elicit a headache, among other symptoms, there are no consistent clinical data to support this claim. Findings from the literature indicate that there is no consistent evidence to suggest that individuals may be uniquely sensitive to MSG.
A comprehensive report by FASEB found no credible evidence of toxicity at normal levels, no evidence of impact on chronic health, and – well, basically, the medical equivalent of an entry in Snopes.
The Mediterranean diet so beloved of WDDTY is likely to contain tomatoes, parmesan cheese, mushrooms and many other ingredients which contain MSG.
Not only is MSG as safe as anything else we eat, it’s arguably a good deal better for you than its competitor in the sodium salt business, sodium chloride.
Aspartame, too, is widely claimed to be a toxic and dreadful thing, but without benefit of actual evidence. It genuinely does have its own article on Snopes.
It is one of the most thoroughly tested food additives in the world, and every single test reaches the same conclusion: it is safe. Safer than saccharin (marginally: saccharin is now known to be pretty safe too), safer than sugar.
In case it was not obvious by now, WDDTY’s claim here is nonsense on stilts, with a large floppy cap and a big red nose.
According to Professor J. Timothy Greenamyre, a neuroscientist then at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, “Glutamate has neurotoxic properties and can produce ‘excitotoxic’ lesions reminiscent of human neurodenegerative disorders.”6
Source 6: Arch Neurol, 1986; 43: 1058–63, does not suggest any useful effect in children, it is concerned with glutamate modification as a possible source of treatment for neurological disorders. See above re the safety of MSG.
These can disrupt certain brain pathways, causing memory loss and other cortical ‘disconnections’ like those found in Alzheimer’s.7
Source 7: Another WDDTY twofer: Cerebrovasc Brain Metab Rev, 1993; 5: 61–94; and Neurobiol Aging, 1989; 10: 593–602. If your child does not have Alzheimer’s, these findings are not obviously relevant: both are concerned with cognitive deterioration in dementia patients.
As for aspartame, another excitotoxin, there is evidence that the side-effects of artificial sweeteners tend to be exacerbated in children, causing hyperactivity, low intelligence, poor school performance and irritability.8
Source 8: Roberts HJ. Aspartame (NutraSweet): Is It Safe? Philadelphia: The Charles Press, 1989. Not in any way a reliable source, part of the cottage industry of anti-aspartame conspiracism, robustly contradicted by vastly better science (see above). And also not obviously relevant in context.
Watch out for sweetened items like kiddy vitamins, gum or juice drinks. And whenever you order a Chinese, ask them to hold the MSG.
Rubbish, as shown above. The best reason for avoiding excessively sweetened and seasoned foods for children is that it’s much better to educate their palate to prefer healthier foods, especially fruits.
Selling sound advice on completely irrational grounds is another hallmark of WDDTY, of course.
5- Mobile phones
Some 200 or more studies now confirm the damage to the growing brain caused by mobile phones. In addition to facing a greater risk of brain tumours,9 children and teenagers who grow up using mobile phones will very soon start suffering from learning difficulties, attention deficits, sleep problems and memory loss, according to Russian research.
Source 9: BioInitiative 2012, follow the money. Yet more “nutritionists” selling yet more supplements.
Mobile phones have been classified, after furious lobbying by people of extremely dubious sanity, as a “possible” carcinogen. As in: it might cause cancer, but we don’t know yet because despite the fact that billions of mobile phones are in use around the world and many have been intensively used for decades, the possible carcinogenic risk amounts to a small increase in a small risk, and is unlikely to be detectable without very large and very long-term epidemiological studies.
The bit of the WHO report that EMF cranks never cite is:
A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.
Got that? WDDTY say that “200 or more studies now confirm the damage to the growing brain caused by mobile phones”, but the World Health Organisation says that “to date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”.
Who to believe? A review of relevant qualifications might be in order. Oh, wait, WDDTY have none. But Lynne McTaggart does believe that we can make things happen by wishing, because quantum.
OK, snark is all well and good, but this is really shoddy reporting. An alarmist “count the papers” promotion of fear mongering, when there is an immensely thorough review of all the relevant science by an international body made up of genuine credentialed experts which is studying the risk, just in case, even though to date – and I will repeat this – no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.
At some point you just have to say: shut up, you idiots, not only do you very obviously have no idea what you are talking about, you are spreading fear and driving people into the arms of charlatans.
The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has appealed to governments and manufacturers to consider either restricting the amount of time children spend on mobile phones or developing new and safer technology that takes into account children’s developing brains.10
Source 10: http://www.emfacts.com/2008/04/881-rncnirp-warning-on-children-and-mobile-phone-use/
Who are EMFacts?
EMFacts Consultancy, founded in 1994 by Don Maisch, has produced a wide range of reports and papers dealing with various health issues related to human exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation. […]
EMFacts Consultancy also offers a range of advisory services.
Follow the money, Lynne, follow the money.
It’s almost impossible these days for any parent to avoid giving their preteen or teen a mobile phone, but you can try to limit their use or encourage them to text instead, to keep in touch with their friends via Facebook and to hold the phone away from their heads when they’re using it and never keep it next to them when they’re sleeping.
I will close here with a paraphrase from Billy Madison:
Ms. McTaggart, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.