Violence, Conduct Disorder
Research on the dietary connection
… the Program Plan of the Law Enforcement Administration of the United States Department of Justice, concluded: “Today, the most important issue of rehabilitation is the growing conviction among both experts and lay persons that most treatment has been ineffectual for rehabilitating offenders.” Although not much has changed in the “big picture” in the 30+ years since then, there have been a few hopeful lights in the darkness, which will be discussed below and under “The Diet Connection.”
… Dr. Feingold published an article called Dietary Management for Juvenile Delinquency in the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. See full text. In it, he comments that there were approximately 4,000 chemicals added to foods as “intentional additives” … today there are closer to 12,000 (see box at right).
Dr. Feingold described three case histories illustrating the development of delinquency beginning with behavioral problems in infancy and childhood, and later resolved by dietary control. He said that the cause of the original behavioral disturbances may often be the cause of the later delinquency, and that nutrition plays an important role. He described the original Feingold Diet which, he said, will “lead to a favorable response in observed behavior in approximately 60 to 70 percent of the disturbed children. For those who fail to respond to this regimen, other factors, both synthetic and natural, must be considered, e.g. milk, eggs, corn, wheat, perfumes, sprays, etc. It must be recognized that any compound, natural or synthetic, can induce an adverse reaction if the individual has the appropriate genetic profile.”
… Dr. Feingold addressed the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Child Care. Again, he focused his attention on juvenile delinquency: “It is not necessary to cite statistics to support the contention that juvenile delinquency, vandalism, violence, assault and crime in general show a persistent rise in prevalence . . . every modality for rehabilitation of delinquency and adult criminals has failed. Since all these procedures have been structured on psychosocial factors, we must look elsewhere for the answers, and that answer is to be found in the biosciences, which include genetics, moleccular genetics, pharmacogenetics, behavioral toxicology, behavioral teratology, immunology, immunochemistry, allergy, endocrinology, with a focus on nutrition, which encompasses all these areas.”
Nevertheless, today ...
… most parents who seek help for troubled children are offered only a limited choice of counseling and drugs, and there is seldom any attempt on the part of the health care givers to consider possible underlying chemical or nutritional factors. The usual diagnosis for such children is ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) or CD (conduct disorder) – all just descriptions of what the parent already knows – and psychostimulants are the major tool used to treat them. Parents are told that the child has a mysterious brain disorder despite the fact that the National Institutes of Health in 1998 found “…there are no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.” (This statement was on their website for several years but has since been removed.)
The studies listed below are organized by date, with the most recent date first. Some of the full texts will need a password because they are kept in a locked file to protect their copyright. For educational purposes, we are allowed to share the password with you if you write to us.
If you are trying to find a particular author, see the Index below which lists all the primary authors alphabetically with their publication dates.
- Bennett 1997
- Bennett 1998
- Bennett 1998
- Dykman 1998
- Gesch 2002
- Horrocks 1999
- Liu 2005
- Schmidt 1997
- Schoenthaler 1991
- Starobrat-Hermelin 1998
Liu 2005: Review of health risk factors for violence
” Although aggression and violence have been increasingly viewed as a major public health problem with a biological and health basis, it has been under-researched in the nursing and health context. This paper reviews early biological risk factors for violence. These factors include pregnancy/birth complications, fetal exposure to nicotine, alcohol, and drugs, low cholesterol, malnutrition, lead and manganese exposure,head injuries and brain dysfunction, low arousal, low serotonin, low cortisol, and high testosterone. A biopsychosocial violence mode is proposed. Finally, the paper argues that nursing is ideally placed to develop a new body of knowledge based on a biosocial perspective that can lead to more effective prevention programs for violence. ”
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Gesch 2002: Study shows supplements improves behavior of prisoners
Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners C. Bernard Gesch, Sean M. Hammond, Sarah E. Hampson, Anita Eves and Martin J. Crowder, British Journal of Psychiatry (2002), 181, 22 – 28
” Experimental, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial of nutritional supplements on 231 young adult prisoners, comparing disciplinary offences before and during supplementation.Results: Compared with placebos, those receiving the active capsules committed an average of 26.3% … fewer offences. Compared to baseline, the effect on those taking active supplements for a minimum of 2 weeks was an average 35.1% … reduction of offences, whereas placebos remained within standard error.
Conclusions: Antisocial behaviour in prisons, including violence, are reduced by vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids with similar implications for those eating poor diets in the community.”
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Horrocks 1999: Review of DHA benefits on behavior & health
Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid. Horrocks LA, Yeo YK, Pharmacological Research 1999 Sep;40(3):211-25
[DHA is one of the omega-3 essential fatty acids] “… The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning…The visual acuity of healthy, full-term, formula-fed infants is increased when their formula includes DHA … DHA deficiencies are associated with foetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria, unipolar depression, aggressive hostility, and adrenoleukodystrophy….DHA is present in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) and mother’s milk. DHA is present at low levels in meat and eggs, but is not usually present in infant formulas…. DHA has a positive effect on diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, thrombosis, and some cancers.”
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Bennett 1998: The Shipley Project - treating food allergy to prevent criminal behavior
Bennett et al., The Shipley Project: Treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 1998, 8, 77-83.
Nine children with persistent anti-social, disruptive and/or criminal behaviours were assessed and treated for food intolerance and allergy. All were found to have a number of food allergies or intolerances and mineral imbalances, particularly in zinc. Three showed marginally raised cadmium while one had considerably raised cadmium. The children remained at home in the care of their parents while undergoing a restrictive dietary regime with the avoidance of identified problem foods. The health and behaviour of all nine subjects improved both physically and psychologically. However, three children abandoned the dietary regime, two of whom re-offended and were placed in care while the third moved home and accepted enzyme-potentiated desensitization (EPD) treatment. He and the other six continued to improve in health, behaviour and school performance over 6 months. In the following 18 months, two more re-offended but with much reduced frequency and violence than before the project. After 2 years, five of the nine had not re-offended. The feasibility of applying nutritional and biochemical assessment and treatment in the community to divert young offenders and disruptive schoolchildren from criminal behaviour was demonstrated. Criminal justice, education and health agencies could incorporate and develop this approach in furtherance of their statutory objectives.
Dykman 1998: Study showed supplements reduced symptoms
Effect of nutritional supplements on attentional-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Dykman KD, Dykman RA. Integr Physiol Behav Sci. 1998 Jan-Mar;33(1):49-60
” . . . supplement decreased the number and severity of ADHD, associated ODD and CD symptoms, and side effects [for those taking stimulant medications] in all groups during the first two weeks of the study. . . Present results suggest that symptoms of ADHD may be reduced by the addition to the diet of saccharides used by the body in glycoconjugate synthesis.”
Starobrat-Hermelin 1998: Magnesium needed for ADHD
The effect of deficiency of selected bioelements on hyperactivity in children with certain specified mental disorders, Starobrat-Hermelin B, Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis, 1998;44:297-314
“… shortage [of magnesium, copper, zinc, calcium, iron] occurs more often among hyperactive children than among those being healthy, and deficiency of magnesium is the most frequent in this respect. Further, I have divided the group of 110 children with magnesium deficiency into two groups according to the other mental disorders that coexist with ADHD: 1) the group where hyperactivity coexists with disorders typical for developmental age such as enuresis, tics, separation anxiety, stuttering, selective mutism (63 children); 2) the group where hyperactivity coexists with disruptive behaviour disorders: conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder (47 children). … The obtained results have clearly disclosed significant increase of magnesium, zinc, calcium content … and … decrease of hyperactivity in the group of children treated with magnesium. . . The findings herein presented indicate that it is necessary to take into consideration a possible bioelements deficiency among children with ADHD. Consequently, the accomplished study proves that there is a need of magnesium supplementation in ADHD children irrespectively of other mental disorders.”
MedLine (article in Polish)
Bennett 1997: Study of 100 young offenders
Bennett CPW & Brostoff J., The health of criminals related to behaviour, food, allergy and nutrition: A controlled study of 100 persistent young offenders. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 1997, 7, 359-366
This questionnaire-based research addressed the young offender population in order to estimate the proportion likely to have food allergic and other nutritionally related disorders such as hyperactivity. A controlled health and dietary survey was conducted with 100 young offenders and 100 matched non-offenders. The offender group reported significantly higher rates of ill health than the non-offender group. It is suggested that the nutritional health of young offenders could be investigated as part of present statutory requirements to consider the physical and mental health of young criminals. There was no real difference between the diets of the two groups. … the proportion of the persistent young offender population with maladaptive behaviours linked to food allergy, food intolerance and nutritional problems is cautiously estimated to be 75% whereas 18% of the young non-offender population is similarly affected.
Schmidt 1997: Study shows diet works as well as drugs for conduct disorder
Does oligoantigenic diet influence hyperactive/conduct-disordered children–a controlled trial. Schmidt MH, et al., European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997 Jun;6(2):88-95.
“Effects of diet were compared with those yielded by stimulant medication (methylphenidate). … Twelve children (24%) showed significant behavioral improvement in two behavior ratings during diet relative to control diet conditions … The amount of positive changes in behavior in those who received both treatments was about the same… dietary treatment cannot be neglected as a possible access to treating hyperactive/disruptive children …”
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Schoenthaler 1991: Diet improved behavior & academics in 813 detention centers
Applied Nutrition and Behavior, S.Schoenthaler, J.Moody, L.Pankow, Journal of Applied Nutrition, November 1, 1991, Vol. 43
Review of studies at California State University; implementation of “nutrient dense diets” in 813 state juvenile detention facilities “resulted in significantly improved conduct, intelligence, and/or academic performance…”
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The Diet Connection
Since the 1970s, very little has been done to address the need for effective rehabilitation in our prisons. We know there are treatments that work, but they are seldom made available.
Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler has published a series of studies conducted in juvenile prison systems and schools. In the prison studies, he found that improved diet plus the addition of vitamins improved behavior dramatically, reducing rule-breaking and violence 40% or more.
Elevated levels of lead and other environmental toxins such as cadmium, arsenic, mercury, or copper have been linked to behavioral abnormalities. Nevertheless, most children are never tested for their “body burdens” of such chemicals.
Nor are children in trouble usually tested for zinc deficiency even though it is known to trigger behavioral problems, including aggression (Ward 1990, 1997). Ward’s research showed that children with a diagnosis of ADHD lost zinc faster than other people did when they ate foods containing food dye.
The Pfeiffer Medical Center in Illinois has many years of successful experience helping children whose violent behavior is the result of nutritional imbalance.
In the 1970s and 80s, Barbara Reed Stitt was having remarkable success in helping parolees stay out of trouble. Most probation officers had success with only 15% of their parolees; Barbara’s success rate was an unheard-of 85%. What she did was convince them to improve their diet. You can read about her work in the book Food & Behavior, a Natural Connection.
You can also see her work with the Appleton Alternative School in Wisconsin, a school for troubled teenagers, in an article called “A Different Kind of School Lunch.”
Schmidt (1997) compared a diet eliminating all additives as well as most allergens with Ritalin for children with conduct-disorder as well as ADHD. 44% of them responded to Ritalin, while 24% responded equally well to the Feingold-type diet. He concluded, “dietary treatment cannot be neglected as a possible access to treating hyperactive/disruptive children.“
Bennett & Brostoff (1997) surveyed 100 young criminals and found that 75% of them had food allergies, food intolerance, and nutritional problems, compared to only 18% of the young non-offender population.
In 1998, Bennett et al successfully treated nine children with persistent anti-social disruptive and/or criminal behavior by changing their diet to avoid the identified problem foods.
Gesch (2002) showed that antisocial behavior in prisons, including violence, are dramatically reduced by ordinary supplements of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (but not by placebo).
Crime Times is a free publication that focuses on chemical, environmental, and nutritional factors that can result in violent behavior.
In summary, although not much research on violence and the Feingold diet has been specifically done, there has been enough work done to warrant a trial of this simple and safe diet, as well as testing for biochemical imbalances and toxic metals.