|Vol. 1, No. 4 , 1995, Page 7|
Canadian researchers report dramatic improvement in the behaviors of two disturbed teenagers following treatment for iron deficiency. Their findings, Jun-bi Tu et al. say, suggest that in some cases, "correcting [this] nutrient deficit may be an essential step toward a refinement of therapeutic strategies."
One child treated by the researchers was a 15-year-old girl with a history of aggression, hyperactivity, truancy, destructiveness, drug abuse, sexual acting out, stealing, lying, and running away. The second child was a 13-year-old boy with a history of mood disorders, sexual offenses against younger children, hallucinations, and extreme violence.
When initial tests revealed slight abnormalities in the two children's iron levels, the researchers ordered more accurate tests which uncovered "striking iron deficiency." The researchers discontinued the antidepressants the children had been taking, and ferrous sulfate therapy was started. Within several months, the children's iron levels had normalized.
As a result of the therapy, the researchers say, "Remarkable improvement [in the female subject] was noted by staff and school teacher independently about five months following iron therapy--two months after the iron status had reached the normal range." The girl's mood and concentration improved, she became interested in reading, she controlled her temper better, and she showed more empathy toward others.
The male subject, the researchers report, "became less impulsive and more manageable... [and] has remained stable in a community group home at nine months of follow-up without recurrence of... any major management problem."
Jun-bi Tu and colleagues note that routine tests do not always uncover iron deficiency, and suggest that more comprehensive screenings should be performed on conduct- disordered children, particularly if they show signs of malnutrition or are females experiencing heavy periods. The researchers also caution that the use of psychotropic drugs -- particularly antidepressants -- has been shown to worsen the symptoms of iron-deficient patients, suggesting that iron deficiency may contraindicate the use of such medications.
"Iron deficiency in two adolescents with conduct, dysthymic and movement disorders," Jun-bi Tu, Hany Shafey, and Cathy VanDewetering, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 39, August 1994. Address: Jun-bi Tu, London Psychiatric Hospital, 850 Highbury Avenue, London, Ontario N6A 4H1.