Close up of sweets, including a cherry and wine gums

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


Further reading

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Food and Diet’ in June 2011 and reviewed and updated in August 2016.

Ecology and environment, Psychology
Food and Diet
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development