Great-grandmother beats the scientists

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The Independent Online

Health Editor

A 75-year-old great-grand-mother who took on sceptical scientists has had her beliefs vindicated by American research which shows that many hyperactive children suffer from a deficiency of a vital nutrient.

In 1981 Vicky Colquhoun and her daughter, Sally Bunday, from Chichester, West Sussex, wrote a paper, published in Medical Hypotheses, which reported substantial improvement in the behaviour of hyperactive children who were given supplements of essential fatty acids (EFA). These are found in nuts, sunflower seeds, wheatgerm, soya, and in supplements such as Evening Primrose Oil and Starflower Oil.

The two women, who have run the Hyperactive Childrens' Support Group for 20 years, had noticed that many children with the condition - also known as attention deficit disorder - suffered symptoms associated with EFA deficiency, including thirst, dry skin, and allergies. Mrs Bunday's own son, born in 1977, was hyperactive.

The women recommended to parents, in the face of opposition from experts, that they should supplement their childrens' diets with extra EFA's.

Despite this, treatment has focused on powerful drugs such as Ritalin. But now scientists at the Department of Food and Nutrition at Purdue University, Indiana, have found that 40 per cent of the hyperactive children in their study showed clinical evidence of an EFA deficiency. It credits the paper by Mrs Colquhoun and Mrs Bunday as the origin of the project.

Vicky Colquhoun yesterday called on the Department of Health to fund a British study into hyperactivity and EFA deficiency. She said that natural supplements were a safer treatment for young children than some recommended drugs.