This was a wonderful article, but a small mistake was made: this intervention was NOT “discovered at Children’s Hospital in Detroit”.
West Bloomfield’s Preemie Growth Project believes micronutrients could help children with cerebral palsy
A new treatment previously used with premature babies is now being utilized to help fight cerebral palsy.
According to the National Institutes of Health, cerebral palsy is a disease caused by injuries to the brain before, during or after birth. It causes neuromuscular problems, which might range from mild to severe in nature, and might affect all or part of the body.
The Centers for Disease Control said an estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in the U.S. with cerebral palsy.
The Preemie Growth Project, a nonprofit group based in West Bloomfield, is conducting test cases of a new micronutrient formula that it says could help children with cerebral palsy.
The treatment was discovered at Children’s Hospital in Detroit last year. A 9-month-old boy diagnosed with cerebral palsy went from 12 pounds to 22 pounds in just 10 weeks, said Ida Briggs, the executive director and founder of the Preemie Growth Project.
There are no scientific studies that support the belief that micronutrients can improve function of children with cerebral palsy.
The FDA does not have to review claims by promoters of the micronutrient treatment because it is not medicine.
However, a 2007 study of 36 children with cerebral palsy by the Department of Pediatrics of Sorlandet Hospital in Arendal, Norway, raised questions on the micronutrient treatment’s efficacy.
“Low intake of micronutrients as well as low micronutrient concentrations was common in this heterogenic group of children with CP,” the researchers concluded. “Children with neurological disabilities should have their nutritional status evaluated in order to ascertain sufficient intake of micronutrients.”
The study didn’t suggest that micronutrients would improve function of those with the neurological disability.
Dr. Eileen Donovan, the medical director at the Detroit Institute for Children, explained the science behind the micronutrient formula.
“The micronutrients are trace elements that are normally found in the fresh foods that we eat,” Donovan said. “They started looking at kids who are born prematurely, because normally the micronutrients would be passed from the mom to the baby through the mom’s diet during the last trimester.”
Babies born before the third trimester are missing trace elements, such as aluminum, barium and carbon, and are subject to catch-up growth after being treated with supplements, according to the PGP.
A 9-month-old preemie who was born two months premature would normally be achieving the milestones similar to those of a 7-month-old, Donovan said. Physicians adjust for this catch-up period for up to two years, she said. Children being treated with the micronutrient supplements are now meeting development milestones at the same time as their peers, Briggs said.
The current medical theory regarding cerebral palsy and similar disorders is that the brain damage occurs first and that neuromuscular issues associated with the disability follow.
The Preemie Growth Project hopes to prove the opposite. Specifically, Briggs says that the neuromuscular issues are a symptom of the trace mineral deficiency, something that can be corrected via the micronutrient supplement before permanent damage occurs.
She described one boy’s experience with the treatment.
“He had no head, neck or trunk control,” Briggs said. Within six to eight weeks, Briggs said, he was able to use a visual eye gate (typing device) and have his first conversation in his life.
So far, 11 of the 27 participants being tracked by PGP have seen what is being deemed “dramatic improvement,” Briggs said.
Melissa Jenkins, a Berkley resident and mother of 7-year-old Dakota who has cerebral palsy, said that she has seen improvement in her son after just two months of him being on the treatment.
“He started gaining weight,” she said. “It was about two weeks in, and we noticed his appetite was improving.”