Down Syndrome alternative treatment, natural therapy with vitamins, herbs, supplements by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
January 1 2017

Down's syndrome is a genetic disorder that can lead to mental retardation of varying degrees. There is growing evidence of disproportionate impairment of specific systems such as the hippocampal formation, the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. A brief review of the medical literature does not indicate any "miracle" nutritional cures or effective natural treatments. I will update this page as more information becomes available.

Down Syndrome alternative treatment

Q. Do supplements help with this condition?
   A. There is some early research that some may have a small influence, but I do not have personal medical experience treating Down's syndrome patients with dietary supplements.

Tumori. 2014. Antioxidant strategies in genetic syndromes with high neoplastic risk in infant age. Oxidative stress plays a key role in carcinogenesis. Oxidative damage to cell components can lead to the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer. Oxidative stress is also a distinctive sign in several genetic disorders characterized by a cancer predisposition such as ataxia-telangiectasia, Fanconi anemia, Down syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Costello syndrome. Taking into account the link between oxidative stress and cancer, the capacity of antioxidant agents to prevent or delay neoplastic development has been tested in various studies, both in vitro and in vivo, with interesting and promising results. In recent years, research has been conducted into the molecular mechanisms linking oxidative stress to the pathogenesis of the genetic syndromes we consider in this review, with the resulting identification of possible new therapeutic targets. The aim of this review is to focus on the oxidative mechanisms intervening in carcinogenesis in cancer-prone genetic disorders and to analyze the current status and future prospects of antioxidants.

Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol-10) supplementation improves oxidative imbalance in children with trisomy 21.
Pediatr Neurol. 2007. Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.
Evidence of oxidative stress was reported in individuals with trisomy 21. In this study, 14 children with trisomy 21 had significantly increased plasma ubiquinone-10 (the oxidized component of coenzyme Q10) compared with 12 age- and sex-matched healthy children. After 3 months of ubiquinol-10 supplementation (10 mg/kg/day) to 10 patients with trisomy 21, the mean ubiquinol-10:total coenzyme Q10 ratio increased significantly. To our knowledge, this is the first study to indicate that the pro-oxidant state in plasma of children with trisomy 21, as assessed by ubiquinol-10:total coenzyme Q10 ratio, may be normalized with ubiquinol-10 supplementation. Further studies are needed to determine whether correction of this oxidant imbalance improves clinical outcomes of children with trisomy 21.

Down Syndrome Research studies, alpha lipoic acid and l cysteine
Redox balance in patients with Down's syndrome before and after dietary supplementation with alpha-lipoic acid and L-cysteine.
Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2003.
The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible normalizing effect of antioxidants on certain parameters indicative of oxidative stress in Down's syndrome. The study was performed in pediatric patients with Down's syndrome with proven redox imbalance, who were advised to take a dietary supplementation composed of alpha-lipoic acid and L-cysteine for several treatment cycles (one treatment cycle = 30 days dietary supplementation plus 30 days wash-out). Serum thiol groups, serum total and septic reactive oxygen species (ROS) and total antioxidant status of serum were determined before and after dietary supplementation, using commercially available kits. In all the evaluable patients (n = 20), after 3.8 treatment cycles, thiol group serum concentrations and total antioxidant status of serum significantly increased for both parameters) in comparison with basal values, while serum total and septic ROS significantly decreased. On the basis of these results it is impossible to demonstrate the clinical effects of the biochemical normalization obtained in patients with Down syndrome after supplying alpha-lipoic acid and L-cysteine. These data suggest that delaying the clinical expression of redox imbalance in patients with Down's syndrome might be feasible by normalizing their redox balance.

Folate metabolism and Down's syndrome
Abnormal folate metabolism and mutation in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene may be maternal risk factors for Down syndrome.
Food and Drug Administration-National Center for Toxicological Research, the Division of Biochemical Toxicology, Jefferson, AR 72079,USA.
Am J Clin Nutr. 1999.
Down syndrome, or trisomy 21, is a complex genetic disease resulting from the presence of 3 copies of chromosome 21. The origin of the extra chromosome is maternal in 95% of cases and is due to the failure of normal chromosomal segregation during meiosis. Although advanced maternal age is a major risk factor for trisomy 21, most children with Down syndrome are born to mothers <30 y of age. On the basis of evidence that abnormal folate and methyl metabolism can lead to DNA hypomethylation and abnormal chromosomal segregation, we hypothesized that the C-to-T substitution at nucleotide 677 (677C-->T) mutation of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene may be a risk factor for maternal meiotic nondisjunction and Down syndrome in young mothers. The frequency of the MTHFR 677C-->T mutation was evaluated in 57 mothers of children with Down syndrome and in 50 age-matched control mothers. Ratios of plasma homocysteine to methionine and lymphocyte methotrexate cytotoxicity were measured as indicators of functional folate status. A significant increase in plasma homocysteine concentrations and lymphocyte methotrexate cytotoxicity was observed in the mothers of children with Down syndrome, consistent with abnormal folate and methyl metabolism. Mothers with the 677C-->T mutation had a 2.6-fold higher risk of having a child with Down syndrome than did mothers without the T substitution. The results of this initial study indicate that folate metabolism is abnormal in mothers of children with Down syndrome and that this may be explained, in part, by a mutation in the MTHFR gene.

Zinc supplement
Zinc sulfate supplementation improves thyroid function in hypozincemic Down children.
Cattedra di Endocrinologia, Universita G. D'Annunzio, Chieti, Italy.
Biol Trace Elem Res. 1999.
In subjects affected by trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), hypothyroidism is the most common endocrinological deficit. Plasma zinc levels, which are commonly detected below the normal range in Down patients, are related to some endocrinological and immunological functions; in fact, zinc deficiency has been shown to impair immune response and growth rate. Aims of this study were to evaluate (1) the role of zinc deficiency in subclinical hypothyroidism and (2) thyroid function changes in Down children cyclically supplemented with zinc sulfate. Inverse correlations have been observed between age and triiodotironine (T3) and between zinc and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH); higher TSH levels have been found in hypozincemic patients at the beginning of the study. After 6 mo of supplementation, an improvement of thyroid function (TSH levels: 3.96 +/- 1.84 vs 2.64 +/- 1.33 mUI/mL basally and after 6 mo, respectively) was observed in hypozincemic patients. In the second cycle of supplementation, a similar trend of TSH was observed. At the end of the study, TSH significantly decreased in treated hypozincemic subjects and it was no longer different in comparison to normozincemic patients. We suggest zinc supplementation to the diet in hypozincemic Down children as a simple and useful therapeutic tool.

Vitamin therapy
Vitamin therapy and children with Down syndrome: a review of research.
Except Child. 1989.
The claim that large doses of vitamin-mineral supplements benefit mentally retarded children has captured the attention of the general public and the medical profession. A study by Harrell, Capp, Davis, Pearless, and Ravitz (1981) reported increases in IQ and improvements in behavior among mentally retarded subjects (one third of whom were children with Down syndrome) receiving nutritional supplementation. However, subsequent studies, focusing exclusively on children with Down syndrome and using less flawed research designs, have demonstrated that vitamin therapy is not useful for members of this population.

Use of megadoses of vitamins with minerals in Down syndrome.
J Pediatr. 1984.
To evaluate the effects of megadoses of vitamins with minerals on the cognitive intelligence of children with Down syndrome, a two-group double-blind clinical trial was carried out with 56 school-aged children with Down syndrome. Children were evaluated at baseline, 4 months, and 8 months with a battery of standard psychologic tests, physical examinations, and blood tests. The two groups, which were well-matched is cognitive intelligence and other important subject characteristics at baseline, were not significantly different in intelligence and other test scores at the 4- or 8-month test periods. The particular megadoses of vitamins with minerals used in the study did not produce increased intelligence in the study population.

Systematic review of the effect of therapeutic dietary supplements and drugs on cognitive function in subjects with Down syndrome.
Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2002. Department of Paediatric Neurosciences, King's College Hospital, London, UK.
The objective was to evaluate the effects of therapeutic dietary supplements and drugs on cognitive function in subjects with Down syndrome. The study design was a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of dietary supplements and/or drugs reporting any assessment of cognitive function in subjects with Down syndrome. Eleven trials were identified with 373 randomized participants. None of the trials reported cognitive enhancing effect in subjects with Down syndrome. Meta-analysis was not conducted due to the heterogeneous nature of the population, interventions and outcome measures used. Overall, the quality of the trials was poor with few subjects and generally inadequate allocation concealment of the treatments given. This comprehensive systematic review provides no positive evidence that any combination of drugs, vitamins and minerals enhance either cognitive function or psychomotor development in people with Down syndrome. However, because of the small number of subjects involved and the overall unsatisfactory quality of the trials, an effect cannot be excluded at this point. At present there is no justification for the use of such regimes outside the context of large well designed trials. Parents of children with Down syndrome should be actively discouraged from giving these 'miracle drugs' to their children.

Down Syndrome supplement, vitamin and herbal questions
Q. Is Mind Power Rx suitable for a 15 months Down Syndrome toddler who currently taking approx. 350mg DHA daily? If yes, what is the recommended dosage? Any side effects?
     A. Thank you for asking but we don't recommend Mind Power Rx for a toddler. Mind Power Rx was developed mostly for adults.

Q. Do you or have you had clients use Mind Power Rx by Ray Sahelian, M.D. for the treatment of Down syndrome? I noticed that many of these supplements are also used in Ayurvedic medicine for Down treatment and was hoping for any information on the subject. There are many ingredients that act as GABA inhibitors as well as antioxidants and am very curious about the efficacy for memory and cognition for DS people.
   A. We have not had feedback from users of this product for DS.

Q. Your site is wonderfully informative! My baby daughter has Down syndrome and I was hopeful that glyconutrients were going to be the miracle supplement to help her condition. Well, thanks to your extensive review on the matter of glyconutrients, I will not waste my money on them. Do you have some suggestions for other natural supplements that can aid Down syndrome's downsides? Right now I use echinacea drops to boost her immunity. I know there must be more things out there that can help.

Q. I am a father of a 6 month old Down’s syndrome baby. I was not aware until the 25th of November when were informed that she may be having down syndrome. Initially her skull had depression for sometimes and has taken time to normalize. As such, I am asking for the advice on how best to assist her. Is there any drugs you would recommend for her at this age that would boost her capability in the future ? I love her so much that I would like her to live normal life like other children and give her the best.
   A. As of 2017, I am not aware of nutritional supplements that have been proven to be extremely helpful.

Prescription medications
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015. Pharmacological interventions for cognitive decline in people with Down syndrome. People with Down syndrome are vulnerable to developing dementia at an earlier age than the general population. Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline in people with Down syndrome can place a significant burden on both the person with Down syndrome and their family and carers. Various pharmacological interventions, including donepezil, galantamine, memantine and rivastigmine, appear to have some effect in treating cognitive decline in people without Down syndrome, but their effectiveness for those with Down syndrome remains unclear.