Madness and Violent Behavior: The Food Connection

Creative Commons License photo credit: bixentro

A Commentary by Kimberly Hartke

Our nation reels from yet another tragedy, the monstrous attempted assassination of a lovely Congresswoman, Gabby Gifford, and the outright murder and maiming of numerous civil servants and civilians.

We all wonder about what triggered this murderous mayhem. The sheriff and the commentators have it right, the over-the-top, violent rhetoric has got to stop. It serves to shut down dialog instead of furthering understanding between people. But, there is still the underlying cause of mental psychosis to consider.

I have long thought, it is not what’s eating our young people that causes them to lash out with such destructive force, but, what they are eating.

Recently someone told me that one of the violent offenders in one of these incidents had a refrigerator in his bedroom stuffed with junk food and sodas. I would love a dietary survey to be done in each of these cases.

I am 54 years old. In my youth, the mental illness that is so evident in the school shootings and this latest outrage, was unheard of. Columbine, Virginia Tech, and now Arizona beg the question. Why are are these young men so unhinged?

Last night, I attended a screening of the documentary, Food Matters. In it, Andrew Saul, Ph.D., of the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine told the story of a woman who overcame depression through high dose niacin therapy. Niacin is vitamin B3, found in food high in protein, such as milk, cheese, eggs and meat.

All of these foods are commonly demonized in our culture. Vegetables and fruits are frequently highlighted as the healthier option. Soy is often recommended as a “low fat” protein replacement.

What in the World are we Feeding our Babies?

Last year, Gail Elbek wrote for this blog about her work to sound the alarm about soy foods, particularly, soy infant formula and its damaging effects on the development of the brain, resulting in physical and psychological effects.

Now that soy is a common ingredient in many processed foods and soy products are being mistakenly touted as a healthy option, how many pregnant moms or young mothers are unwittingly putting soy in their shopping cart?

In her article, Metals and the Mind, Southern California nutritionist, Theresa Vernon states that Copper toxicity can also cause mental disturbance.  A diet emphasizing vegetables and grains that shuns eggs and meat is likely to be very high in copper, because vegetables are a plentiful source.

Could our Food Policy Need to be Changed?

Our USDA dietary guidelines currently advise to restrict meat and eggs, in favor of vegetables and grains.  In fact, a careful look at these guidelines, reveals that they come close to recommending a vegetarian diet. The new guidelines, about to be released, actually now stipulate a “plant based” diet for Americans.

Could our government policies be misguided and leading us down the wrong path? Many experts testified as much, decrying the proposed guidelines at hearings last summer before the USDA.

Just consider, what is standard breakfast fare in America today? Boxed Cereal, oatmeal, food bars and toaster pastries have supplanted the traditional eggs, bacon and toast. If we are feeding  our children the wrong diet, how can they help but turn out to do wrong things?

The Overlooked Importance of Animal Fats

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a  nutrition education non-profit, that promotes the vital importance of animal fats in the human diet. In an article on nutrition and pre-natal development, the Omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, in particular, is reported to be essential for fetal brain development. DHA can be obtained from cod liver oil, fatty fish and in small levels in grassfed animal fats.

How many pregnant moms know that a daily dose of cod liver oil is an essential part of growing the brain of the child inside them? I daresay, not near enough.

The famous research scientist, Dr. Mary Enig, whose valiant efforts warned us of the dangers of trans fats, says our USDA dietary guidelines are a danger to the health of our children.

Let’s stop focusing exclusively on the environmental influences in the home and in our culture, but start looking at the internal influence of the Standard American Diet on mental health.

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit based in Washington, D.C.


  1. Interesting this article doesn’t mention Bernard Gesch. While this does seem to be an unprecedented area of study, he had done quite a few studies in this exact topic in prisons. Also, of course, you can take a peek at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s “cruel and unusual punishment” lawsuit against the state of Illinois prison system for forcing inmates to consume excess amounts of soy.

    I think it’s great people are starting to consider this as a connection. Thank you for the article!

  2. I agree.
    Our diminished diet seems to have lead us to diminished mental health and diminished morals.
    We are afraid of Nature. Raw milk has been demonized. No one wants to spend any time cooking, as if it’s beneath them, or more likely they are too busy working numerous jobs to pay debt. So convenience food is what gets fed to even the smallest of babies. How can we expect anything but violence from humans so inhumanely treated.
    We need to re connect to the levity of nature, stop focusing on the gravity.
    See the life force in your food, or don’t eat it.

  3. I just watched Food Matters this week as well. I have to agree with you, Kimberly, these things need immediate attention and study. I think it’s far more important to study how shortchanging the nutrition of our youth is dooming them to depression and violence than to fund a joke-creating machine.

  4. The shooters at both Columbine and Virginia Tech were more than likely under the influence of prescribed psychiatric ‘medications’ (and taking them *as* prescribed at that) when they committed their acts of violence. The known adverse effects of these substances can include suicidal or homicidal thoughts/actions. So many people talk about someone’s ‘untreated mental illness’ in these situations when in fact it is often the ‘treatments’ themselves which are the problem’. The ‘medical model’ is a crock. A broader social justice model needs to be used to explore the roots of mental/emotional crises including a hard look at why the system consistently denies people the right to the kind of nutrition that would help guarantee them a healthy body, mind and spirit while at the same time responding to emotional and mental issues by foisting powerful, soul-numbing chemical substances on people.

  5. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Wow, I am loving the insights you all are adding to my original thoughts. Thanks for the value added!

    Iguana, I previously referenced a very interesting study by Gesch on this related blog post:

  6. I think this is spot on. Along with all the information that seems to point this direction, it’s just part of my gut instinct that the poor standard diet is undermining our mental health.

    As an aside, I can’t wait to see the segment on Niacin in the new movie. I was givine Niacin as a supplement (to treat acne) before I went on a traditional diet. My acne is now cleared up and I don’t take Niacin, or any other such supplement or topical med for it!

  7. Eric Brody says:

    Dan White murdered San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. White’s defense was that he suffered diminished capacity as a result of his depression. His change in diet from health food to Twinkies and other sugary food was said to be a symptom of depression. The media misinterpreted this defense as a claim that sugary food was itself responsible for White’s criminal behavior. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

  8. Thanks, Kim, for bringing this subject to our attention. I remember reading about violence in Kaayla Daniel’s book about soy, related to high content of specific mineral contained in soy.

    Low salt, low fat and low cholesterol diets are an experiment. The medical community really doesn’t know the outcome of lowering cholesterol and radically changing the human diet. Many children who are autistic, have low cholesterol levels. The brain is composed of mostly fats and cholesterol, so restricting these substances will alter the brain chemistry.

    We also know that aspartame, the artificial sweetener, is an excitotoxin, and alters the brain. Russell Blaylock, MD, neurosurgeon, has written about this in detail.

    The fluoride in water, toothpaste, rinses, etc, also acts on the brain. Phyllis Mullenix, who spoke at a past Weston Price conference, found that fluoride causes hyperactivity and other abnormalities in her test subjects. For publishing these results, she was dismissed from Harvard.

    Natural, local, simple food is being denied to our children. Who knows the effect of gmo’s on brain development? There is no long term study- they are just unleashed on the public, and the most vulnerable.

    Soy milk for infants–most soy, if not all in the US- is gmo.

    Sylvia Onusic, Phd

  9. Eric Brody says:

    Andrea Yates killed her five young children in 2001 by drowning them in the bathtub in her house. 5 kids in 7 years. Traditional cultures usually have kids 3 years apart.

    She was under the care of Western medical system as she had been suffering for years with very severe postpartum depression and psychosis and was on I believe 3 or 4 prescribed medication including Effexor and Haldol.

    All in all, I’m sure a nutritional profile of how those folks were raised and what they ate will tell the whole picture which the folks at Weston A. Price Foundation already know.

  10. All I can say is Amen Sister!!

  11. I’m not sure I am willing to acknowledge that connection.. there needs to be more proof, but it is interesting. I’m more willing to make the connection between sexual deprivation and criminal behavior. Diet, no doubt has an effect on our brain and how we think, but sex just completely rewires our brain and makes us crazy at times.

  12. I have been thinking the same thing. Thank you for taking the time to put together that excellent article. Reporter John Rappaport wrote an article after Columbine mentioning that fact that with many crazy shootings the people are on prescribed mind drugs which have terrible side effects, where they really dont know what they are doing. Another cause of mental illness, depression, and anxiety, is often metals, which disrupt brain neurotransmitters. They come from teeth filings and vaccines, and from non-organic foods..

  13. AMEN!

    And let’s not forget the importance of high-quality protein foods and traditional fats for making neurotransmitters — especially serotonin, the “good mood” enhancer. Low serotonin, particularly in the middle of winter, when it’s likely combined with low vitamin D levels, can lead to aggression, violent behavior, depression, overall dark moods and thoughts, etc. I know that when I don’t eat as well as I should, and when I go for long periods with inadequate sleep (does *anyone* get enough sleep anymore?) and very little sunlight, I turn into someone I really can’t stand. I lose all patience and tolerance for people and situations that irritate me. I have to force myself to be *aware* of why I’m feeling the way I am and not take it out on other people. Really, I can go from zero to violent rage in about three seconds. Think of all the people out there who live like that *all the time,* and simply don’t have insight as to why. I’m not saying nutrition and lifestyle are the *only* things behind behavioral changes (they’re not, of course), but they’re certainly a huge piece of the puzzle.

    THANK YOU for bringing up this issue.

  14. Hi Kimberly – I think about this all the time, although I constantly hear from people, “food doesn’t cause everything in the universe to go wrong”, and yet it really does affect so many things. Our bodies have to run on something, they can’t just exist off of air. But we don’t feed ourselves anything nourishing when we go to the grocery store, the office party, the gas station, or the fast food establishment. Everything we eat has a direct impact on the way we function or don’t. And if we stop eating, we die. But mostly what we put into our bodies is garbage and junk, thanks to slick marketing and advertising lies of the food industry. Julia Ross put it best: “junk foods make junk moods!” in one of her lectures. This sentiment can be applied to this instance, and unfortunately, it’s more extreme that that, even. I believe people are becoming more out of control, violent, and full of rage as time has gone on. As you gave example of incidences like Columbine and the others, it seems quite evident. Thanks for this post, Kimberly, I hope it causes people to connect the dots.

  15. I absolutely agree there is a connection between our physical health and our mental health.

  16. After reading all the books and information I could find about Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPs) I am convinced that our mental health and capacity is directly tied to the health of our guts. Since we get our gut bacteria from our mothers at birth and there is a very high use of antibiotics in medicine and in our food supply there is a gradually worsening balance of healthy bacteria in our population. Couple with not eating fermented foods while eating junk and taking numerous drugs for mental issues there is a huge increase in violence.

    As a side note my niece overcame schizophrenia with supplements as directed by Dr Abram Hoffer who passed away recently. He had been treating schizophrenia and othere mental issues with high doses of niacin for over fifty years with great success. This treatment has been ignored, and I am sure will be continued to be ignored.

  17. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Gosh, thanks Terry for sharing your deeply personal family story. If any other readers have stories of overcoming mental challenges with food or supplements, please share!

    I am excited to see how many people are sharing this post in facebook. Perhaps we can raise this issue to the national level and really cause some changes!

    Please see also the interesting discussion of this story on the WAPF Foundation Facebook page (you’ll need to scroll down to find it):

  18. Great article! It turns out that the latest shooter was on psychotropic medication, as is almost every such shooter, including the teens at Comlumbine. The current shooter had made a number of death threats to many people, but the sheriff said he was being controlled by the mental health system in the county, and did not arrest him.

    The traditional peoples studied by Dr. Weston A Price did not have crime. They all ate plenty of animal fat, that nourished their brains so their minds worked properly.

    If we all ate plenty of pastured butter and avoided psychotropic drugs, these shootings might not occur.

  19. “Whatever happened to good parenting?” could be another question to be asked. I admit I fail so much as a parent, in many different ways. But I see bad eating habits as part of a parent indulging their children. Whining when the kids don’t get something to eat or something sweet. Then the parent gives in. I’ve done it too. However, my son rarely eats a soda, rarely eats junk food. I still feel bad when he has some. He eats lots of fruit and wouldn’t like life without his fruits. We definitely have some responsibility to help kids learn good eating habits, and maybe, if eating bad causes bad behavior, we could one day live in heaven right here on earth. I say that jokingly of course.

  20. Great… I just listened to this tape by William Shaw, PhD, who spoke at the Weston A Price Conf, on how they find low cholesterol in kids with autism spectrum. They give them cholesterol and they get well. Studies show if cholesterol is under 160…. you are likely be at risk for violence, anxiety, mental illness, fatigue.. He actually says he thinks all mental illness is related to cholesterol…being low. It blew me away. janice.
    – Show quoted text –

  21. Kari Carlisle says:

    Thanks for the post, Kimberly! I tweeted it, used it to back up a LinkedIn answer, and posted it on to promote WAPF!

  22. SBNaturally says:

    Hi Kimberly;

    Here’s a snapshot of Loughner’s diet that night and day before the attack.

    “Fifteen minutes later, he stopped at a Chevron gas station where, according to a source with direct knowledge, he bought a doughnut, a soft drink and several energy bars. Surveillance video captured Loughner making the purchases, and he also used the pay phone at the store, according to the source.”


  23. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Wow SB Naturally, good work. Thanks so much for contributing that evidence to this discussion.

  24. It is really as simple as “garbage in, garbage out”, isn’t it?

  25. BabyCarrots: a program feeding Pregnant and Breastfeeding women in Santa Barbara based on Weston A. Price diet.

  26. This seems like one of the hardest sells to people who know little to nothing about true nutrition. Many of us tell our families, comment on posts and even blog about issues, such as the connection between REAL food and mental health. Sadly, many people just don’t hear what we’re saying. More violence ensues.

    I write for, as well as my own blog, and am constantly targeted for negative comments about cleaning up our food supply and what constitutes REAL food. I beg everyone to keep talking, keep blogging….keep bringing attention to real nutrition for a safer, happier world.

    The cream always rises to the top! My article on MSG.

  27. Jenny of Nourished Kitchen sent me this post, inspired by my op ed.


  1. […] Please see my previous commentary on this topic, Madness and Violent Behavior: The Food Connection. […]

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  5. […] mental health, particularly amongst young men. I have written two previous posts about the issue, Madness and Violent Behavior: The Food Connection and Is Pellegra the Root Cause of Violent Shooting Rampages?. I honestly believe that our national […]

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