Could improving food accessibility improve crime rates?

Recently, a piece exploring the relationship between nutrition and behavior caught my attention. It suggested that a poor diet can lead a person to commit a crime.

I was quite intrigued to say the least. So, today, I want to share with you some of the main takeaways…

To begin, the author cited research from Dr. Alex Schauss about the relationship between malnutrition and criminal activity.

One of Schauss’ most-salient findings was that impulse control in young criminals is extremely poor. And he believed that a diet high in refined carbohydrates plays a part in promoting this poor impulse control and other maladaptive behavior.

(I actually met Dr. Schauss and corresponded with him from 2003 to 2007 about publishing an update in my quarterly review journal, Seminars in Integrative Medicine.)

Schauss’ conclusions always made a lot of sense to me, as we know that a poor diet harms mental health. And it’s not a far jump to conclude that a poor mental state (caused by a poor diet) can also negatively affect behavior. And even, perhaps, lead to criminal behavior.

Dyes linked to learning disabilities in children

The author also referenced the work of Benjamin Feingold—the doctor who uncovered a strong link in the 1970s between learning disabilities in children and diets filled with artificial ingredients and dyes. In fact, many parents today still see tremendous improvement in cognitive growth and behavior in children once they start the so-called “Feingold diet” (an elimination diet that removes additives such as artificial food coloring, sweeteners, and preservatives).

Plus, there’s a very compelling case history of a patient admitted to a psychiatric hospital after killing his ex-wife with a gun. It turns out the patient had developed dementia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency—and while we’ll never know the full story behind his crime, we do know that other studies link nutritional deficiencies to abnormal brain chemistry, which can lead to violent behavior and crime. In fact, in a little-known Japanese lab study, researchers found inducing a deficiency in thiamine (a B vitamin) in rats led them to kill other rats.

Of course, such vitamin B deficiencies are very common among vegetarians and people who follow a typical “western” or “junk food” diet. These people also lack essential minerals like magnesium, healthy fats, and fat-soluble vitamins like D, E, and K.

So, can correcting these nutritional deficiencies lead to improvements in behavior?

You bet they can! Just consider this…

Improvements in diet lead to improvements in behavior

Studies consistently show that improvements in diet can improve mental health…and positively affect behavior.

For example, the author shared a story about a probation officer in northeast Ohio who was assigned to supervise adolescent criminals in her area. Once the officer encouraged the adolescents to improve their diets, their repeat crime rates dropped to zero.

Likewise, some controlled clinical trials have found that supplementing with micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduces aggressive, antisocial, and violent behaviors in youth and young adult prisoners.

At the end of the day, diets filled with ultra-processed foods negatively affect your physical and mental health. And I think we can safely conclude that they also negatively influence behavior.

So, if ever you notice vastly negative changes in your behavior (or the behavior of someone you love), look first at their diet. As always, strive to follow a balanced, Mediterranean-type diet, which includes plenty of:

  • Full-fat dairy, including butter, eggs, cheeses, and yogurt
  • Wild-caught fish and grass-fed, free-range meat, especially lamb, which has the best nutritional profile of all meats
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Alcohol in moderation

This sensible, science-based diet will help you feel in control of your health—including your behavior and emotions.

P.S. It’s clear that nutrient deficiencies impact your overall health. And now we know that includes your behavior, too! The sad truth is that we are sadly undernourished—especially as we age. I discuss this problem, along with the importance of B vitamins, in the March 2018 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“WARNING: The silent—and dangerous—epidemic that’s strikingly common in older adults”). Subscribers have access to this article and all of my past content. So, if you haven’t already, click here to sign up today!


“Malnutrition and crime.” Hormones Matter, 5/13/19. (