Mad Child Disease (Lecture)

Is the autism epidemic a “mad child disease” linked to mercury? This lecture was presented by Boyd Haley, Ph.D. at the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness held in San Diego, California; June 2004.

Prenatal Mercury Exposure May be Associated with Risk of ADHD-related Behaviors

Fish consumption may be associated with lower risk

GravidCHICAGO – A study of children in the New Bedford, Mass., area suggests that low-level prenatal mercury exposure may be associated with a greater risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related behaviors and that fish consumption during pregnancy may be associated with a lower risk of these behaviors, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and affects 8 percent to 12 percent of children worldwide, although its cause is not well understood. The developmental neurotoxicity of mercury is known, but the findings from epidemiological studies are inconsistent with some studies showing associations between mercury exposure and ADHD-related behaviors and others reporting null associations, according to the study background.

Nonoccupational methylmercury exposure comes primarily from eating fish, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have recommended pregnant women limit their total fish intake to no more than two, six-ounce servings per week. However, fish is also a source of nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to benefit brain development, potentially confounding mercury-related risk estimates, the study background also indicates.

Sharon K. Sagiv

Sharon K. Sagiv, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Boston University School of Public Health, and colleagues analyzed data from the New Bedford birth cohort, a group of infants born between 1993 and 1998, to investigate the association of peripartum maternal hair mercury levels (n=421) and prenatal fish intake (n=515) with ADHD-related behaviors at age 8 years.

“In this population-based prospective cohort study, hair mercury levels were consistently associated with ADHD-related behaviors, including inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. We also found that higher prenatal fish consumption was protective for these behaviors,” the authors comment.

Statistical analysis indicates mercury exposure appeared to be associated with inattention and impulsivity/hyperactivity and some outcomes had an apparent threshold with associations at 1 μg/g (microgram/per gram) or greater of mercury. For example, at 1 μg/g or greater, the adjusted risk ratios for mild/markedly atypical inattentive and impulsive/hyperactive behaviors were 1.4 and 1.7 respectively, according to the study results.

There also appeared to be a “protective” (lower risk) association for fish consumption of greater than two servings per week with ADHD-related behaviors, particularly impulsive/hyperactive behaviors (relative risk = 0.4), the study results show.

“In summary, these results suggest that prenatal mercury exposure is associated with a higher risk of ADHD-related behaviors, and fish consumption during pregnancy is associated with a lower risk of these behaviors,” the authors conclude. “Although a single estimate combining these beneficial vs. detrimental effects vis-à-vis fish intake is not possible with these data, these findings are consistent with a growing literature showing risk of mercury exposure and benefits of maternal consumption of fish on fetal brain development and are important for informing dietary recommendations for pregnant women.”


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder a Preventable Epidemic?

Bruce P. Lanphear

In an editorial, Bruce P. Lanphear, M.D., M.P.H., of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, writes: “The study by Sagiv et al, which tested whether prenatal exposure to methyl mercury was associated with the development of ADHD-related behaviors, is an important and rigorously conducted prospective birth cohort study.”

“What are the implications of the Sagiv et al study and other research on environmental contaminants and ADHD? First, we can take some comfort in recent legislation to reduce mercury contamination, at least from domestic sources. Second, these studies should spur our efforts to enhance the collection of data needed to calculate national estimates and trends in ADHD,” Lanphear continues.

“Third, it is time to convene a national scientific advisory panel to evaluate environmental influences of ADHD and make recommendations about what can be done to prevent it. Fourth, this study and a flurry of new evidence linking environmental contaminants with ADHD reinforce the urgency of revising the regulatory framework for environmental contaminants and toxicants,” Lanphear concludes.



Sagiv SK, Thurston SW, Bellinger DV, Amarasiriwardena C, Korrick SA. Prenatal Exposure to Mercury and Fish Consumption During Pregnancy and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder–Related Behavior in Children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;():1-9. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.1286.

Lanphear BP. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder A Preventable Epidemic? Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;():1-3. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.1900.


An Integrative Approach to ADHD (Lecture)

Professor Sanford Newmark, MD, explores in this lecture (2011) the importance of the Integrative Approach-seeing the child in the context of family, friends, school and community, rather than as a set of symptoms that need to be fixed.

Dr. Newmark is a clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California. He is the head of the Pediatric Integrative Neurodevelopmental Program at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, specializing in the treatment of autism, ADHD and other developmental or chronic childhood conditions.

Topics in this lecture include an overview of the genetic, environmental and neurobiological aspects, non-pharmaceutical therapies including nutrition, food sensitivities, vitamin and mineral supplements, parenting, school, and complementary therapies.


Is Your Child’s Brain Starving? (Lecture)

Food, Not Drugs for Life and Learning: 

This is a lecture (2007) on how diet can contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by Dr. Michael R. Lyon, MD. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Food, Nutrition and Health Program. Dr. Lyon is also a member of the Expert Advisory Committee for Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate, as well as Medical and Research Director of the Canadian Centre for Functional Medicine.

Dr. Lyon has designed and conducted numerous clinical trials on natural health products. His extensive clinical research also includes the development of treatment strategies for children with learning and behavioural difficulties, as well as ADHD. Two of Michael R. Lyon’s published works include: Is Your Child’s Brain Starving? Food Not Drugs for Life and Learning and How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine.

Diet and Autism

Researcher Karl-Ludvig Reichelt and his colleagues at the National Hospital in Oslo have found that autistics have more peptides, or fragments of proteins in the urine than healthy people. The effect of this peptide accumulation is an opium-like effect in the brain. The autistics function better socially and achieve greater benefit from teaching and other stimulus when they eat a diet with low protein content without gluten and dairy products. The Norwegian nutrition physiologist Dag Viljen Poleszynski is also interviewed in this film. This is a trailer of the film FOOD? (2005).