Diet and behaviour
How might what you eat affect how you behave?
Some food additives have been linked to hyperactivity in children, and coloured drinks now carry health warnings if they contain any of the six additives that the UK Food Standards Agency wants to phase out. The warning came after a 2007 study showed that children given drinks with the colourings were more likely to be hyperactive than those who drank fruit juice.
Some children with epilepsy have fewer seizures if they adopt a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This is known as a ketogenic diet because deriving energy from fat produces high levels of the substances known as ketones. It involves ultra-close scrutiny of meals and snacks.
More controversial are claims that too little of some nutrients can affect behaviour.
Supplementing trial diets with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids has reduced violence among prisoners. Supplements – especially of the essential fatty acids known as omega-3s, which are important for brain function – have been claimed to reduce a range of problems in schoolchildren, including problems with attention span. There is little evidence to back their use, however.Lead image:
Kristian Thy/Flickr CC BY
- Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community (2007)
- Epilepsy Foundation: Ketogenic diet
- BBC Good Food: Behaviour in children – how diet can help
- Supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners (2002)
- Omega-3 fatty acid and nutrient deficits in adverse neurodevelopment and childhood behaviours (2014)