Whether it is the boy who takes schoolyard fun too far or the girl who grabs and snatches toys away from others, the examples of disruptive and destructive behaviors are so apparent in society, many are seeking to discover the source. While much research focuses on parenting strategies or the influence of television and video games, information on how diet is related to the increase in aggressive behaviors is growing.
1. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Face it, many kids are picky eaters and most will choose junk food over fresh vegetables any day. When child's diet lacks proper levels of vitamins and minerals, it is difficult to maintain a healthy body and mind. Dr. Melvyn Werbach, writing for The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, says that children and adolescents who eat large amounts of junk food can be deficient in thiamine and are more likely to be irritable, aggressive and impulsive. Niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, lithium and magnesium are other vitamins and minerals essential to clarity of mind and psychological health.
2. Too Much Sugar
Most researchers and medical professionals agree that parents should limit the amount of sugar in a child's diet. However, not everyone agrees that the level of sugar impacts behavior. According to the Evergreen Psychotherapy Center website, when children consume large quantities of sugar, their bodies react with a surge of energy, then their blood sugar levels quickly crash below normal. The body compensates this quick rise and fall by releasing stress behavior, which, in children, looks like hyperactivity, anxiety, lack of control, irritability and aggression. The Evergreen Psychotherapy Center website advises that by reducing the amount of sugar in a child's diet, parents can dramatically decrease unwanted behaviors.
3. Food Sensitivities
Pinpointing foods to which a child is sensitive takes extra effort on the part of parents or caregivers. However, Dr. Werbach suggests it could be the key to discovering the root of the aggressive or unwanted behaviors. Sensitivity to foods, commonly milk, wheat or artificial ingredients, can cause an increase in irritability, argumentativeness and even severe psychologically aggressive behaviors. Dr. Werbach reports that aggressive behaviors and personalities can dramatically change by identifying food triggers and removing them from a child's diet.
4. Using Diet to Reduce Aggression
Parents and caregivers who want to explore how diet is influencing the behavior of their child can seek professional nutritional guidance. The Health Recovery Center, a rehabilitation and therapy center that uses natural methods, like diet, to enhance biochemical repair, suggests that improving nutrition allows the brain and the body to rebuild mental stability. Simon Young, writing for The Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience, cites several studies that connect an imbalance of serotonin in the brain to lowered mood and irritability. Young concludes that exercise, exposure to light and eating foods high in tryptophan, like spinach, seafood, pork or eggs, can naturally increase the levels of serotonin, decreasing the risk for aggression or other unwanted behaviors associated with mood.
- Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine: Nutritional Influences on Aggressive Behavior
- WebMD: Vitamins for Kids: Do Healthy Kids Need Supplements?
- Understanding and Preventing Violence, Volume 2: Biobehavioral Influences: Nutrition and Violent Behavior
- Nutrition Action Health Letter: Diet and Behavior in Children
- Evergreen Psychotherapy Center: The Effects of Sugar on a Child's Behavior
- Health Recovery Center: Violent Behaviors
- The Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience: How to Increase Serotonin in the Human Brain Without Drugs
- Nutritiona Data: Foods Highest in Tryptophan
- Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images