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The ABCDs of Vitamins and Reading by Dr. Michal Luchins

Vitamin D deficiency seems rampant. But is there a connection between Vitamin D and ADHD, autism and developmental delays? Dr John J Cannell, Executive Director of Vitamin D Council and a forensic psychiatrist in California, is convinced that Vitamin D does play a role.

Could Other Vitamins Also Play a Role?

In his book Healing Children's Attention & Behavior Disorders, Dr. Abram Hoffer, a psychiatrist and the doctor who discovered the role of niacin in normalizing cholesterol levels, includes a fascinating study on the importance of vitamins conducted by Dr. G. Wald and Dr. B. Jackson in the 1940s.

They conducted experiments with rats in which they deprived them of B vitamins but gave them normal amounts of calories. They thought that as a rat got sick, it would stop running. They began with B1 (thiamin). As they took thiamin away from the rats, instead of stopping, Wald reported that they “ran day and night, sometimes as much as forty times their normal running.”

When Wald and Jackson removed only Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) from the diet, again they found that “the rat begins to run its head off. If you take away its water, the rat runs; if you take its food away, the rat responds by running… What was going on?” The rat seemed to be going directly against the rule of self-preservation. “Then I learned that the universal sign of hunger, of genuine deprivation of food, in all animals from protozoa to man, is increased activity,” Dr. Wald reported years later in an article.

Dr. Hoffer brings this experiment as an excellent model of human hyperactivity. “The deficiency of B vitamins activates this basic animal reflex for increased activity,” he wrote. He proposed that the hyperactivity running about and ceaseless fidgeting of some children may be human versions of the frantic running of the B-deficient animal. In adults it may present as an inability to tolerate inactivity; they are therefore constantly on the move, restless and tense.

Many people are hungry for the proper vitamins even if they are not lacking in food. These vitamin deficiencies may be contributing to behavior and reading and learning conditions that can be markedly improved by vitamin supplementation. For instance, Dr. Hoffer found that Vitamin B3 (niacin) and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) were quite useful in treating children’s hyperactivity. Many children who were overly active suffered from dyslexia where words blurred or moved. They were tired, moody and irritable and many had perceptual illusions and occasionally hallucinations. One-third wet the bed. All responded to B vitamins within weeks.

The B vitamins are strongly linked to the immune system because they are responsible for clearing of toxins in the liver. They are critical for brain function and the rest of the nervous system. Therefore circadian rhythm, regulation of moods, and nerve pain are just a sampling of many nervous system activities in which B vitamins are involved.

What is the Role of B Vitamins on Learning?

Traditionally, if a child is having learning difficulties, a developmental optometrist runs unique eye tests, beyond routine eye exams. These tests determine why patients have not developed the visual skills they need to adequately perform tasks required in their daily lives—especially at work or school. Tasks affected by an inefficient visual system may include reading, writing, focusing back and forth between a printed page and the blackboard and runcatching a ball. A developmental optometrist’s goal is to teach patients to optimize their visual systems so that learning and reading are enjoyable and they do not struggle with the reading process.

Since the eye is part of the brain and vision occurs not in the eye but, rather, in the brain, the role of B vitamins in visual/learning deficiencies cannot be understated. All those with reading and educational deficits—with or without behavioral symptoms of hyperactivity, moodiness, fatigue—must also be assessed for B vitamin deficiencies. With appropriate blood and urine analysis, one can directly ascertain if an individual suffers from underlying low blood-levels of B vitamins — in particular, of B6, B9 (folate) and/or B12 (methylcobalamin) — and/or genetic inabilities to process the vitamins.

In addition to developmental glasses and traditional vision therapy that help patients acquire the visual skills needed for reading and learning, one can now make use of advances in labtesting to assess patients’ nutrient levels and genetic mutations related to their metabolism. By incorporating treatment to correct the nutritional deficiencies contributing to visual, behavioral and learning deficits, patients are able to learn with ease. Where books, school work and computers had been associated with headaches and discomfort, they can become gateways to learning and accomplishment.

Dr. Michal Luchins, an optometric physician, runs the Family Vision & Learning Center in Suffern. She specializes in vision therapy and developmental optometry and incorporates orthomolecular nutrient treatment. Dr. Luchins can be reached at 369-3235, or visit

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