Saturday, April 11, 2009

Prevent Anorexia with Thiamine, Niacin, Vitamin D, & Vitamin C: Start with Female Athletes

The hypothesis that anorexia is caused by vitamin deficiency is being tested. Read more here. More and more parents concerned about the eating habits of their children are providing them with some or all of the following vitamin recommendations:

Thiamine: 100 mg of thiamine hydrochloride per day, and one 50 mg enteric coated TTFD (fat-soluble thiamine) twice per week
Vitamin D: full body sunshine (5-10 minutes per side) at least three times/week. Dark-skinned children need more sun than is practical and can take 1000 IU/day of vitamin D under the supervision of a pediatrician
Niacin: one 250 mg time-release niacin twice per week
Vitamin C: 2000 mg daily with breakfast and dinner
Multivitamin: one per day

The reports are trickling in. Children and teenagers taking these vitamins do not develop serious eating disorders. When the hypothesis was first posted here over two years ago, it was a hypothesis. Now it is a successfully tested hypothesis. The vitamins have been 100% effective in the small sample of children tested. I don't expect anyone to take my word for it. I expect readers to try the vitamins and observe the results. Sadly, the vitamins will not be effective for everyone, and general success will provide little comfort to the parents of the small fraction of children who become anorexic despite the vitamins.

The group that deserves the most attention is female athletes. Disordered eating is epidemic among female athletes. Here is the relevant quote from the Manual of Sports Medicine:

"The true prevalence of disordered eating in athletes is unknown. Based on a series of small studies there is reported 15 to 62% prevalence in female athletes. A higher prevalence of disordered eating is often noted among participants in certain sports in which subjective judging and aesthetics are important (gymnastics, dance, figure skating, diving) and sports in which peak performance is associated with low body fat (running - especially distance running - and swimming)."

Teachers, parents, and coaches for these sports should be made aware of the link between vitamin deficiency and eating disorders. If these statistics are even remotely correct, every community of gymnasts, dancers, skaters, divers, runners, and swimmers has members at risk of anorexia but not yet anorexic. The vitamins do not cure anorexia - they prevent anorexia. With luck, some teams will start taking the recommended vitamins. They will be like the first ships that sailed with foods rich in vitamins to test the hypothesis that vitamin C prevents scurvy. Within one year these teams will see for themselve the effectiveness of the vitamins for preventing anorexia.

The fact that female atheletes have a much higher prevalence of anorexia is even more support for the vitamin deficiency hypothesis. Anorexia is a known clinical marker for beriberi - the thiamine deficiency disease. Thiamine deficiency is known as "high calorie malnutrition". Thiamine requirements depend upon the amount of carbohydrate calories burned. Some very rare individuals simply can't burn too many carbohydrate calories without developing symptoms of thiamine deficiency no matter how much thiamine they supplement. Beriberi was epidemic amongst slave populations and prisoners of war fed low fat diets and forced to do alot of hard labor. Female athletes are unwittingly emulating these behaviors and suffering the same consequences.

There's no reason to read and wonder. The hypothesis that vitamins prevent anorexia is easily tested. Get female gymnasts, dancers, skaters, divers, runners, and swimmers to try the vitamins. There's much to gain and nothing to lose. In a few short months the prevalence of anorexia on these teams drops or it doesn't. It's working in our community. Science suggests that it will work in yours too.

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