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Children's Health | Supplements Better than Hormone Therapy in Kids

Supplements Better than Hormone Therapy in Kids

Supplementing with vitamin A and iron is as effective as hormone therapy for enhancing growth and promoting puberty development in children with constitutional delay of growth and puberty (CDGP), according to a study in Clinical Endocrinology (2004;60:682–7).

CDGP is a common cause of short stature and delayed onset of puberty in boys and, less frequently, in girls. It is characterized by slow growth until age 3, followed by normal growth until the time when puberty would normally begin (around age 12). Because of the delay of puberty, normal testes enlargement does not occur in boys with CDGP. The growth of the skeleton is also affected, causing improper bone development that can lead to fractures later in life.

Children affected by CDGP eventually enter puberty and reach normal adult height. However, because of the social implications of being short and sexually immature compared with one’s peers and the possibility of poor bone formation, doctors often prescribe sex hormones to induce puberty and enhance growth. Sex hormones are associated with potential side effects ranging from acne and muscle cramps to severe liver disease (from prolonged use).

Vitamin A levels are lower in children with CDGP than in children of normal height and sexual maturity of the same age. It has been suggested that vitamin A deficiency contributes to a delay in the onset of puberty by decreasing the secretion of growth hormone, leading to slowed growth. Iron is also necessary for normal growth, and it enhances the effect of vitamin A in the treatment of certain conditions.

The new study compared the effect of vitamin A and iron supplementation with hormonal therapy on 102 boys with CDGP. Participants’ average age was 14.4 years. None of the boys showed any signs of puberty and all were short for their age and had a slow growth rate. The boys were randomly assigned to receive either (1) 5 mg per day of a growth-promoting steroid hormone (oxandrolone) for 6 months, (2) 100 mg of testosterone per month for 3 months, (3) 100 mg of testosterone per month for 6 months, (4) 6,000 IU of vitamin A per week plus 12 mg of iron per day for 12 months, (5) 5 mg of oxandrolone per day for 6 months plus 6,000 IU vitamin A per week and 12 mg iron per day for 12 months, or (6) no treatment (control). To assess the effectiveness of the different treatment regimens, the following were measured at the beginning of the study and at 6 and 12 months: height, weight, pubertal status (by testicular volume), and bone age (age based upon appearance of the bones; bone age is younger than actual age in children with CDGP).

The boys who were treated with vitamin A and iron had significantly faster growth rates than those in the control group. The growth rates in the vitamin A-and-iron group were similar to those seen in the testosterone and oxandrolone groups. The vitamin A-and-iron group was the only group to experience an increase in testicular volume (indicating the onset of puberty) after 6 months of treatment. All of the treatment groups had an increase in testicular volume at the end of 12 months, whereas the control group did not.

The results of this study indicate that treatment with small amounts of vitamin A and iron may be as effective as hormone therapy for boys with CDGP, without the same side-effect risks.

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.

Copyright © 2004 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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