Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabled 



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 Down 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 thiamine. These are the quantities that evidently get results, and get them safely. 

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. It is discussed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/downs.html


Dr. Harrell, who had been researching vitamin effects on learning for over 30 years, was not inventing the idea of megavitamin therapy suddenly in one paper. And now, over 40 years after her important published discovery, vitamins still work . . . providing they are tried.  


Copyright 2004 and prior years by Andrew W. Saul. Revised 2023.

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )



Andrew W. Saul


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