Approved April 17, 1983 by the NCAHF. Copyright, NCAHF. Permission to reprint is granted with proper citation.

NCAHF Position Paper on Diet and Criminal Behavior

The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) believes that misinformation is presently being used to exploit some popular beliefs that are not factual. We therefore endorse the following statements:

  1. Nutritionally adequate and acceptable diets should be available for all institutionalized individuals. Nutritional adequacy must be determined on the basis of accepted dietary principles.
  2. Valid evidence is lacking to support the claim that diet is an important determinant in the development of violence and criminal behavior.
  3. Valid evidence is lacking to support the hypothesis that reactive hypoglycemia is a common cause of violent behavior.
  4. Inappropriate dietary treatment based on unfounded beliefs about the relationships between diet and criminal behavior can have harmful effects.
  5. Health assessment of individuals in correctional institutions is essential and should be carried out using acceptable methods under the supervision of a qualified physician. Unverified assessment methods such as iridology, applied kinesiology, routine hair analysis for assessment of nutritional status, and nonvalid dietary assessment are unacceptable.
  6. If diet-related health disorders are identified in individuals in correctional institutions, appropriate treatment should be undertaken under qualified medical guidance. Diet therapy should not be instituted unless there is an identified specific need for treatment.
  7. Training programs for professionals and paraprofessionals working in public schools, correctional facilities, and in the criminal justice system should emphasize objective information about the prevention and treatment of behavioral problems. Implementation of unfounded or unscientific beliefs should cease.

The belief that violence and crime are products of improper diet is being promoted by a growing number of individuals. This belief, rejected as unfounded by the consensus of scientifically-trained health professionals, appears to be accepted as "fact" by many educators, probation officers, social workers, criminologists, and legislators. However, a causal relationship between diet and crime has not been demonstrated. And, diet is not an important determinant in the incidence of violent behavior.

Those who profess that there is a link between diet and criminal behavior often point to foods that are the popular whipping boys, such as processed foods containing refined sugar and white flour, or soft drinks, or candy and other calorie dense foods. However, many other foods have also been pointed out as culprits by proponents. For example, both milk and oranges have been singled out as "problem" foods by some who promote the unfounded belief that brain "allergies" are a major cause of violence and criminal behavior. In addition, high levels of nutrient supplements (e.g. "megadoses" of vitamins) and special "health" foods are often advocated by promoters of the belief that nutritional deficiencies or "imbalances" are a root cause of crime.

Evidence used to support such beliefs may sound dramatic, but it is largely subjective evidence presented by believers. This evidence consists primarily of anecdotal case reports, and reports of studies that have not been conducted under carefully controlled conditions. Nevertheless, the impression is given that there is a large body of scientific evidence which establishes a link between diet and certain behavioral disorders that lead to violence and crime.

A number of other factors paved the way for the exploration of the belief that modern diets have an important effect on the incidence of violence and crime. For example, there is widespread public concern about violence and crime and about the safety of the food supply. These concerns have been heightened by reports of higher crime rates, increased environmental pollution, and the increased awareness of the presence of intentional and unintentional additives in foods. Such factors make the public more vulnerable to the appeal of attractive but unfounded simplistic remedies.

In addition, there is legitimate research in progress on the biochemistry of brain function. Riding on the crest of this scientific interest, incautious individuals are promoting misinformation through training courses and publishing material for law-enforcement and other professionals.

Dietary improvements based on established information are desirable. However, dietary changes based on popular but erroneous beliefs are unjustifiable and can carry considerable risk to the physical and social health of individuals and of society.

The NCAHF position paper on diet and criminal behavior has been endorsed by the California Nutrition Council, the California Dietetic Association, and the American Dietetic Association.

For background information and references, see review paper by G. E. Gray, and L. K. Gray, "Diet and Juvenile Delinquency," Nutrition Today, May/June 1983, pp. 14-16,20.


Please retain the following notice on any copies made of this position paper:

The National Council Against Health Fraud, Inc.

NCAHF is a private nonprofit, voluntary health agency that focuses upon health misinformation, fraud and quackery as public health problems. Its funding is derived primarily from membership dues, newsletter subscriptions, and consumer information services. NCAHF's officers and board members serve without compensation. NCAHF unites consumers with health professionals, educators, researchers, attorneys, and others who believe that everyone has a stake in the quality of the health marketplace. NCAHF's positions on consumer health issues are based upon principles of science that underlie consumer protection law. Required are: (1) adequate disclosure in labeling and other warranties to enable consumers to make proper choices; (2) premarketing proof of safety and efficacy for products and services that claim to prevent, alleviate, or cure any disease or disorder; and, (3) accountability for those who violate consumer laws.

For more information , write: NCAHF, P.O. Box 1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354-1276; Fax: 909-824-4838. Donations to NCAHF are tax deductible under IRS tax code 501 (c)(3).

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