Giving children with Down’s syndrome antioxidants and nutrients does not help their condition improve at all, according to a study published today on bmj.com.
UK researchers studied the effect of giving such supplements to 156 babies under 7 months old with Down’s syndrome over an 18-month period.
Down’s syndrome is the most common genetic cause of learning disability in the UK affecting around 1 in 1,000 new born babies.
Previous studies have investigated the possibility that giving folate, antioxidants, or both might improve the effects of Down’s syndrome, particularly language and psychomotor development.
Although none have reported any significant effect, use of vitamin and mineral supplements is widespread in children with Down’s syndrome in Europe and the USA due to marketing of commercial preparations claiming substantial benefits.
In this study, the babies, from several sites in England, were split into four groups. One group was given a daily dose of antioxidants, one folinic acid, one a combination of antioxidants and folinic acid, and one a placebo. All the supplements were given in a powder that could be mixed with food or drink.
After 18 months, the children remaining in the study were assessed for their mental and cognitive development.
The researchers found that giving the supplements made no difference to the biochemical outcomes in the children and did not improve their language or psychomotor development.
This study provides no evidence to support the use of antioxidant or folinic acid supplements in children with Down’s syndrome, conclude the authors. Parents who choose to give supplements to their children need to weigh their hope of unproved benefits against potential adverse effects from high dose, prolonged supplementation.
These findings are supported in an accompanying editorial, which states that until evidence of any benefit of expensive vitamin supplements is available, they cannot be recommended.
Journal article: http://press.psprings.co.uk/bmj/february/Downs.pdf
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