*This article previously appeared in the January 1997 issue of The Tarrant County Physician. It is provided here with permission of the author and of the publisher. "All articles are copyright-protected, but may be freely reproduced and distributed provided that they are not sold and full credit is given."
"Kids Plex" Claimed To Treat ADD/ADHD*
Tim Gorski, MD
Performance Nutrition of Carrollton is engaged in marketing nutritional supplements, one of which is being aggressively touted as effective in the treatment of learning disabilities. Sort of. Advertising for the company's "Kids Plex Jr." states that the product "combats poor diets and nutritional deficiencies," which is probably true if such disorders were prevalent in the United States. Promotional materials then refer to "2-4 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 diagnosed with ADD/ADHD" and say that "a growing number of physicians believe that parents should take steps to investigate all options that could lead to a healthy child, and that drugs should be utilized only ... as a last resort." The product itself states that it "may help hyperactivity and A.D.H.D."
In fact, there is no credible evidence to suggest that learning disabilities are caused or contributed to by nutritional factors or that they can be effectively managed by dietary modifications or nutritional supplements like that promoted by Performance Nutrition. Indeed, well-designed efforts to identify such influences have been unsuccessful. In short, while a thousand other unexamined interventions "may help" children with hyperactivity and learning problems, it seems quite unlikely that "Kids Plex Jr." is worth its asking price for parents of these youngsters.
There is no question, meanwhile, that there is a medical scientific consensus that medications like Ritalin ought to be used only when necessary and only as part of a multidisciplinary plan of management of ADD/ADHD. Yet the practical reality is that many overburdened educators and impatient parents turn to such medications and end up relying on them as exclusive treatment for such conditions. Indeed, there is much anecdotal material in circulation involving children with miscellaneous behavior problems being "diagnosed" by teachers and school officials with ADD/ADHD. In many such cases, parents are said to have been advised to find a practitioner willing to prescribe medication or face the prospect of having to make other arrangements for their children's schooling.
Given these considerations, there may well be situations in which "Kids Plex Jr." could serve as a physically harmless placebo for unnecessary medications as well as an ineffective substitute for children who genuinely have a learning disability. But in either case, it is the children who are likely to suffer from adults overlooking or ignoring their problems, whether ADD/ADHD or something else. .
At the same time, everyone involved, including the youngsters, are reinforced in the false belief that these kinds of problems are nutritionally-related and/or can be resolved by means of a quick fix taken by mouth, whether pharmacologically active or not.