While the public at large is looking to change gun control laws after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, it would also be advisable to look into the writings/research of criminologist Dr. Alexander Schauss, author of Diet, Crime & Delinquency, and Dr. Barbara Reed Stitt’s Food, Teens and Behavior. Both present research on the diet-behavior connection and how to apply nutritional therapy as an adjunct to other programs. This is the perfect time to check out the food-mood connection!
So, let’s start with Dr. Alexander Schauss. My interest in his work was piqued when I read a chapter in his book titled “Low Blood Sugar and Antisocial Behavior.” Schauss gives an excellent look at how sugar can cause a whole range of behavioral symptoms, “from depression and hyperactivity to acting out behaviors that may be extremely asocial.” Dr. Schauss uses case histories, graphs and illustrations in his book to show the connection between food additives, food allergies, alcoholism, junk food and environmental pollutants and how all contribute to the development of crime.
Dr. Barbara Reed Stitt worked for two decades in the criminal justice system, which included 11 years as Chief Probation Officer of the Municipal Court of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It was here that Dr. Stitt was convinced that a radically different approach was needed to prevent crime and delinquency. She saw firsthand how a diet high in sugar and caffeine could disrupt the workings of the mind, so she set out to change the system by introducing nutritional therapy. After evaluating the health of her probationers and finding that an enormous number were junk food addicts as well as hypoglycemic and diabetic, she placed them on a specialized diet designed to correct nutritional deficiencies and metabolic disorders. Amazingly, as their health improved, so did their response to rehabilitation and counseling programs. Dr. Stitt’s nutritional correction program attained an 89 percent success rate!
In 1984, I was proud and honored to be the coordinator of a research project studying the correlation between diet and behavior in juvenile delinquents. The study was under the direction of Stephen J. Schoenthaler, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at California State University, Stanislaus. With the help and guidance of the HSF’s medical director, Dr. Douglas Baird; nutritionist, Dr. Lorna Walker; and biochemist, Jay Foster, the study was conducted at the Starting Place in Hollywood, Florida. The participants were 35 juvenile delinquents willing to find out if there might be a nutritional and physical cause to their behavior. We tested them physically, psychologically, nutritionally and chemically over an eight-month period.
I remember so vividly the following scenario. Before we started the program, I had a chance to meet the participants in an informal setting. I introduced myself and told them they would be seeing me quite often. Not wanting to reveal anything specific about the program, yet wanting to know if they had any idea of why we were there, I asked the following question: “What did you eat for breakfast today?” One young man, about 16 years old and eager to share, raised his hand immediately. “I had four cans of Coke and three donuts!” He was so proud! I then asked him how he felt afterwards. To my astonishment, he replied, “Like a keg of dynamite ready to explode!” I followed with, “Do you have any idea that if you changed how and what you ate, particularly for breakfast, you would not experience this feeling?” He responded, “You gotta be kidding!” Most teenagers have no idea that what they are or are not eating contributes to how they think, feel and behave!
During the Starting Place study, Dr. Schoenthaler was also conducting studies in a dozen other juvenile correctional institutions. His data showed that the institutions following dietary and vitamin intervention had a dramatic reduction in violence and antisocial behavior. The full results are published in Nutrition & Brain Function (Craiger Press, 1987).
The works of Drs. Schauss, Stitt and Schoenthaler need to be recognized and thoroughly investigated now more than ever. Regardless of whether you have children, it still would be beneficial to educate yourself on a subject that pertains to each and every one of us… how poor dietary habits and severe nutritional deficiencies can affect one’s emotional and physical health at home, work, school and in our community.
If your child is showing any signs of antisocial behavior, outbursts of temper, severe depression and/or mood swings, please check out my December blog on “Children & Hypoglycemia: An Area of Growing Concern.”
It’s a new year, a new beginning. May 2013 be your best year ever!