Nutritional, dietary, and hormonal treatments for individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities

Cynthia R. Ellis, Nirbhay N. Singh, Amy L. Ruane

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Nutritional, dietary, and hormonal approaches to producing behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes in individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities (MRDD) flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. Although an occasional article is still published, there was little serious research activity in recent years until interest in secretin as a potential treatment for autism stimulated the new surge of research currently under way. We briefly discuss the general findings of the effects of various nutritional, dietary, and hormonal approaches in the treatment of individuals with MRDD. We will not review the literature dealing with the nutritional status of individuals with MRDD. We recognize that some of these individuals have disorders that may compromise their nutritional well-being (e.g., maple syrup urine disease, phenylketonuria, and galactosemia) and, therefore, require specific nutritional interventions. Our focus is on nutritional and dietary approaches that are intended to enhance cognitive ability or treat behavioral and emotional problems in individuals with MRDD. We also discuss use of the hormones, melatonin and secretin, in this population. Overall, we found the quality of the research on vitamins, minerals, hormones, and dietary treatments for individuals with MRDD to be overwhelmingly anecdotal and poorly controlled, and the outcomes not strongly supportive of their efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-341
Number of pages7
JournalMental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999


  • Diet and behavior
  • Diet and cognition
  • Hormone therapy
  • Nutritional and dietary treatments
  • Vitamins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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