In 1997, Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wisconsin was out of control. Teens were rude, obnoxious, and ill mannered. Worse, the school had so many problems with discipline and weapons violations that a police officer was on staff.
That same year Natural Ovens, a small bakery company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin started a five-year project to bring healthy food into the area’s schools. Their goal was to show that food can make a real difference in student behavior, learning and health.
By 2002, Appleton’s Central Alternative High was a different place. Students were focused, interactive, calm and purposeful. Teachers spent more time teaching and less time disciplining. Grades were up, truancy was down, and arguments were rare.
The annual report of students who dropped out, were expelled, caught using drugs, carrying weapons, or committed suicide dropped to zero.
Could food really change violent behavior?
According to Sylvia Onusic, PhD, CNS, LDN, the answer is a clear yes. In her article, "Violent Behavior: A Solution in Plain Sight," she sets out a compelling argument for the real reasons behind the increase in violent behavior among Americans, especially teenage violence.
Rather than blaming the media, the breakdown of family values, or other social factors for teenage violence, Dr. Onusic points the finger at malnutrition brought on by a food supply dominated by devitalized processed foods.
Her report is published in Wise Traditions, the journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. In it she contends that American brains are starving. Deficiencies of vitamins (especially A, D, K, B1, B3, B6, B12 and folate), and of minerals (especially iodine, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, chromium and manganese) can all contribute to mental instability and violent behavior, including teenage violence.
She notes that doctors are seeing a return of nutritional deficiency diseases such as scurvy and pellagra. Pellagra is a vitamin B3 deficiency. Its symptoms include anxiety, hyperactivity, depression, fatigue, headache, insomnia and hallucinations.
According to Dr. Onusic, zinc deficiency is linked with angry, aggressive, and hostile behaviors that result in violence. The best dietary sources of zinc are red meat and shellfish.
Leaky gut and gluten sensitivities exacerbate these nutrient deficiencies. Gluten intolerance is strongly linked with schizophrenia.
Excitotoxins like MSG and Aspartame are everywhere in the food supply. According to Dr. Onusic, people who live on processed food and diet sodas are exposed to very high levels of these mind-altering chemicals.
Other ingredients linked to violent behavior include sugar, artificial colors and flavorings, caffeine, alcohol and soy foods.
Toxins in the environment like mercury, arsenic, lead, fire retardants, pesticides, heavy metals, and Teflon add to the problem.
The medical system addresses teenage violence and all these behavior problems with more psychiatric drugs. That just leads to more violence according to Dr. Onusic. Quoting psychiatrist Peter Braggin, M.D., she points out that depression very rarely leads to violence and it’s only been since the advent of SSRI drugs that we’ve seen murderers and mass murderers taking antidepressants. She cites one study finding an 840% increase in violence among those taking psychiatric drugs.
Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, called for a return to real, nutrient-dense food.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has been a vocal critic of the poor nutritional quality of school lunches. The Foundation proposes dietary guidelines that include eggs, organ meats, and healthy animal fats, as well as other cholesterol-rich foods.
“Our brains need cholesterol to function properly,” said Fallon Morell, “and our children need cholesterol-rich food for optimal mental and emotional development.” She points out that studies have shown that depressed individuals, violent offenders, and the most violent suicides have low cholesterol levels.
To learn more about the foundation’s philosophy, read Sally Fallon Morrell’s book, Nourishing Traditions, The Book that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.