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Using Known Science Could Save Kids and Taxpayers, and Reduce Teachers' Burdens 

by Francis P. Koster, Ed.D.

It takes a lot of nutrition for a pregnant woman to grow a new living human being.   If the right amounts of nutrition is not present in a pregnant woman's body, the baby often arrives with a brain that does not work right.  

The number of broken brains in America’s children is huge and growing.

There are 62 million kids between the ages of 3 and 17 in the United States.[1] Somewhere around 1 in 10 have mild to serious ADHD[2], another 1 in 10 have some form of dyslexia[3][4 and another 1 in 26 have a diagnosis of other learning disabilities[5]. Additionally, 1 in 68 is affected by Autism.[6]

Ask any soon-to-retire teacher about the change in their students over the span of their career, and they will tell you all these numbers are rising.  

Can you see why our educational system is challenged?

The brain works by passing information from one location to another thousands of times each second.     As one doctor explained it to me, "you can think about the transfer of information like tossing a ball between a pitcher and a catcher."

Problems arise when the pitcher throws a large softball to a catcher with a hard ball mitt, or a fast ball when the catcher was expecting a curve ball, or when the wimpy pitch does not reach the plate.   Poor nutrition during pregnancy can create poor pitch/catch process in the child’s brain.

There are several reasons why the little body may have suffered poor nutrition. First, mom’s diet may lack enough good nutrients.   Or she may eat enough good stuff, but her digestion system does not work correctly and fails to absorb the nutrients.   If mom does not eat good stuff, or fails to absorb it, it is not available to the child.   The brain will not grow right during pregnancy.  

Many of these children are born premature. The brain goes through a growth spurt during the last 3 months of a nine month pregnancy, and if a child is born premature, that brain growth spurt has to continue after birth, and requires extra nutrition because the supply from mom has been cut off.   Unfortunately, the baby cannot make the shortage up from their normal diet in the first few months of life. If the premature child does not get the needed supplements, the brain may not catch fast balls or curve balls unless the child is given extra nutrition throughout their life.

When the babies reach school age, this growing population of kids with these kinds of problems require a lot more resources to try to pitch learning into a brain that drops a lot of the balls.

One study involving almost 12,000 pregnant women who ate various food containing nutrients known to improve mental function showed woman with low intake of the “good stuff” had children much more likely to be in the lowest quartile of all reading scores .[7]

Here is the good news: When children are given the required specific nutritional supplements, researchers report that the “underachieving” kids showed three times the expected rate of improvement in reading, as well as gains in spelling and improved behavior[8]

In one study done of academic underperformers in England,[9] 40% of the kids given nutritional supplements showed clear improvement in learning and behavior!

The surprising fact to me is that in our country we do not act on this massive opportunity for schools to facilitate learning.

I found literally dozens of scientific papers outlining the size of the problem and the effectiveness and low cost of the solution. The stunning thing was that, unlike hearing and vision testing, I could not find one example of a school system that systematically saw that their students were tested for this very common barrier to learning.  

So we adults have a significant opportunity to role model the very kind of behavior we seek in our kids.   We can do our science homework, and change our school systems to incorporate what we have learned.  

If we do this, we will improve the lives of millions of kids and families forever, and reduce the cost to the taxpayer for special education. Truly a Win/Win for our society.  

You can start by checking out the footnotes below, or go to Google Scholar (a special website for scientific researchers) and search on "nutrition deficiency" and "autism" "ADHD" "Learning Disability" "dyslexia".


[1] http://www.census.gov/hhes/school/data/cps/2010/tables.html, sub-total B10:B15

[2] Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children: National Health Interview Survey 2012                           http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_258.pdf

[3] http://dyslexia.yale.edu/MDAI/

[4] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-explain-rates/

[5] Learning Disability Fast Facts, National Center for Learning Disabilities - I took the total population of all school aged children (62 million) and divided it by the number of children diagnosed with LD (2.4 million), yields 1 in 26.

[6] http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/facts-about-autism

[7] Lancet, February 17, 2007 – Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood; Hibbel, Davis, Steer.

[8] Omega-3 DHA ad EPA for Cognition, Behavior and mood: Clinical Findings and Structural-Functional Synergies with Cell Membrane Phospholipids, Parris M. Kidd Ph.D. P209

[9] BBC - Science & Nature- Human Body and Mind   http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/articles

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