Psychological Problems in Children: Surprising Cause

diet and behavioral problems in children

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There are few things as important to us parents as our children’s brains.  So why do we treat our children’s brains so poorly?

Our brains are very susceptible to the foods we eat, the chemicals we are exposed to and the stresses we experience.  That means that every molecule of food you eat can have a direct effect on the way your brain functions.  And this, of course, includes your child’s brain as well.

I cannot understand how a parent who has a child with a behavioral problem can feed his or her child Cheetos and yet think that there is no real help for his or her son or daughter.  These decisions absolutely affect the way brain cells function, from sending messages between cells to NOT sending messages between cells that are not supposed to fire.

Top of the list of nutrients that are essential for brain health are the fats.  Good fats like the omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats help to make up a more stable cells membrane in the neuron.  Poor quality fats, on the other hand, destabilize the brain cell membrane.  As you can imagine, destabilized brain cells are not something we want to support on the inside of our skull.

This particular study supports the relationship between our children’s behaviors and the foods that they eat.  While the term “junk food” may be subject to interpretation, I think we can all agree that, in this study, defining junk food as a high energy, low nutrient content just seems to cover it all.  In this study, it means sweets, sweetened beverages, fast foods and salty snacks.

13,486 children, aged 8-18 were evaluated for psychiatric distress (worry, depression, confusion, insomnia, anxiety, aggression and worthless) and violent behaviors (physical fight, victim and bully) and the presence of these factors was weighed against how much junk foods were regularly consumed.  Here’s what they found:

  • There was a relationship between violent behaviors and the intake of junk foods.
  • Daily consumption of sweetened beverages and snacks increased self-reported psychiatric distress.
  • Daily consumption of salty snacks increased the risk of violent behavior (physical fight 39%, victim 19% and bully 55%).

If you’ve ever tried to deny that the foods you are feeding your child will not have an impact on his or her behaviors, this study should put this notion to rest.  If you are a parent of a child with anything other than a perfectly psychologically and behavioraly normal child, and you child’s diet has  daily exposures to the foods listed in this study, it’s time to wake up.  There is not any other way to look at it.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.