Whether it’s the terrible two tantrums, disruptive behaviour in the classroom, bullying in the playground or fully-fledged violence ending in death, as we have seen in America, childhood behaviour is declining. The current forms of treatment, drugs and punishment, are simply not working. The critical factor that is not being addressed is diet. Nutrition has a profound effect on brain balance and there has been much research done on the link between malnutrition and childhood violence. (1) Yet this effective form of prevention and treatment seems to have been swept under the carpet.

Last month I watched the documentary movie ‘Bowling for Colombine’. They didn’t mention it in the movie, but in each case of the school killings that the movie highlighted, each child behind the gun was in the process of coming off Ritalin. Aggressive behaviour is a well-known ‘side effect’ when withdrawing from this drug (2). Also last month, I attended an excellent seminar by Sue Dengate that included information on the behavioral consequences of additives in our foods. She highlighted a recent visit to a juvenile prison in Brisbane where she uncovered a strange phenomenon. As a form of punishment for aggressive behaviour, the kids were not allowed to consume any cordial. The behaviour of these kids immediately and dramatically improved whilst off the cordial. Sue was not surprised when she read the list of additives in the cordial. Bad behaviour is a common ‘side effect’ of consuming food that contains additives.

Here are some of the dietary components that have been directly linked to behavioral problems.

Thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency
Can result in irritability and poorly controlled behavior. Yet supplementation with synthetic thiamine is not the answer. Synthetic vitamin supplements have far less healing potential than supplements produced from a concentration of real food. And, there are far greater problems with overdose. Synthetic thiamine may be consumed in doses that are many times greater than the body can cope with, due to so many commercial foods being ‘fortified’. This may result in a condition known as cholinergic paralysis. (3) Consuming real whole food is always a better choice than a food so denatured by processing that it requires the addition of synthetic vitamins.

Vitamin B12 deficiency
There is a well-documented association between B12 deficiency and violence, depression, dementia and paranoia. There have been numerous cases of rage attacks, temper outbursts, domestic violence, etc., where the violence has ceased after the patient’s deficiency was diagnosed and properly treated. (4)

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in vegans who do not supplement their diet. Traditionally, it would have occurred in naturally fermented products, including tempeh and sauerkraut. This was a result of bacteria from the environment coming into contact with the food during fermentation at room temperature. Today, hygiene standards have improved and bacteria (both good and bad) have decreased in our foods. A consequence to this is that our food no longer contains B12. It was also thought that B12 occurred in seaweed, but this is not the case. Unless fermented products are being made in the home and digestive health is of the highest standard, supplementation by tablet or injection is recommended for all vegans.

Deficiency may occur in vegetarians who consume no eggs and only pasteurised dairy products, as pasteurisation denatures the B12 in dairy. (5) This is of particular concern for breast-feeding mothers as B12 is only passed through into the breast milk if it is being consumed in the mother’s diet. The body is unable to access it from stores within the mother. All traditional vegetarian based cultures consumed some form of raw dairy in their diet. Raw goat’s milk is available from quality health food stores.

Deficiency may also occur in meat eaters who are unable to produce what is known as the ‘intrinsic factor’. Without this, the only way the body is able to absorb B12 is by supplementation with tablets or an injection.

There are no adverse effects from over supplementation of B12.

Heavy metals

Increased levels of lead have been associated with attention deficit disorder, reduction in IQ and other neuropsychological dysfunctions. (6)

Mercury’s effect on the nervous system has been known for centuries. Mercury fillings and vaccination are common sources of mercury toxemia. Here are some of side effects: –

  • Neurological – depression, anxiety and irritability, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
  • Immunologic – lowering the bodys defense system capacity and the viability of white blood cells. This may result in 3 colds in winter instead of 2.
  • Allergies, fatigue and sensitivity to foods and chemicals. (7)

Iodine deficiency

This is increasing due to the consumption of poor quality soy products combined with a diet lacking in iodine rich foods. Adequate iodine levels help the brain work smoothly and calmly, deficiency is associated with impaired mental performance.

Zinc deficiency

If this occurs in the mother during the last trimester of pregnancy it may result in behavior disorders and neuropsychological symptoms in the child.

Fat soluble vitamin deficiency

Calcium, potassium, sulfur and phosphorus, help protect the body against an overload of toxins. For the body to absorb these minerals, the diet needs to contain sufficient oils and fats. In today’s current trend for low fat foods, it is possible to starve for minerals that are abundant in the diet because of a lack of the fat-soluble activators that make mineral utilization possible. (8)

Modern foods that can contribute to behavioural problems

Soy infant formula: Very high in manganese against which baby’s immature brain has no protection. High levels of manganese in the brain have been linked to violent criminal tendencies.
Sugar and white flour: Empty carbohydrates. Contribute to “high calorie malnutrition” by providing calories without supporting nutrients the body needs to assimilate those calories.
Cold breakfast cereals: The extrusion process creates chaotic protein fragments, which can have neurotoxic effects; whole grain extruded products block assimilation of zinc.
Soft drinks: High in phosphoric acid, which causes calcium deficiencies; high in sugar, contributing to high calorie malnutrition. Caffeine in soft drinks over stimulates the adrenal glands and can cause nutrient deficiencies.
MSG, artificial flavors, colours and additives: For Example, a newcomer to the additives used in Australia is flavour enhancer 635. This can be found in foods like CC’s, rice crackers, instant noodles, Hungry Jacks veggie burgers etc. The side effects from consuming this additive, can be very severe and may last over one month or very subtle and cause food intolerances. It does pass through the breast milk and may cause eczema in a breast fed baby. (9)
Trans fatty acids: Contained in the margarine, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats that are used in most commercial biscuits and cakes. These imitation fats to not provide the fat-soluble activators needed for mineral absorption.

Is There Proof?

Take a regular American school with out of control kids, discipline problems and kids taking weapons to school. Remove the vending machines and serve water. Replace the fast-food burgers with fresh salads and meat prepared with ‘old fashioned’ recipes and whole grain bread. Then, observe any difference. This is what a school did in Wisconsin USA in 1997. The results? Grades went up, arguments became rare and most amazingly, drop outs, students expelled, students carrying weapons and suicide have been zero every year since those changes back in 1997 (10).

In Summary

There are of course many reasons for poor behaviour. Although diet is only one of these factors, it is a vitally important one. The food that we provide for our babies and toddlers builds the framework for a healthy digestive system and mental development to their highest potential. Children are far more susceptible to the consequences of artificial additives and later nutritional deficiencies in their diet if their initial framework is fragile.

If you would like to make a change in your school, or would like more information on the link between food and behaviour, have a look at http://www.wannabee.org.au/ a non-profit Australian organisation, Sue Dengate’s site www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/ or http://www.westonaprice.org/ . For information on amalgams, root canals and removing heavy metals from the body through diet http://www.erikdavisdental.com/

Some of the information in this article is based on that written byRichard Dell’Orfano in the Summer 2002 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation USA.

  1. D Lonsdale and others. Crime and Violence: A Hypothetical Explanation of Its Relationship With High Calorie Malnutrition. Journal of the Advancement of Medicine, Fall 1994; 7(3): 171-180.
  2. Child Violence: Richard Dell’Orfano, Wise Traditions, Summer 2002.
  3. Phillip Day, speaking on his 2002 Australian tour.
  4. Subtle Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Psychiatry: A Largely Unnoticed But Devastating Relationship? Medical Hypotheses, 1991; 34:131-140.
  5. Sally Fallon, speaking on her 2003 Australian tour.
  6. Sandstead, HH. A Brief History of The Influence of Trace Elements on Brain Function. The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1986; 43:293-298
  7. http://www.erikdavisdental.com/
  8. Weston A. Price. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 1945, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, San Diego, CA
  9. Sue Dengate, speaking on her 2003 Australian tour on Asthma.
  10. School Behaviour Improved Through Nutrition. Wannabee Foundation. New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Autumn 2003.