Is Pellagra the Root Cause of Violent Shooting Rampages?


What dietary clues do mass killers leave behind? Is anybody investigating?

CSI: Let’s Get to the Bottom of Mass Killings Once and For All!

by Kimberly Hartke

Why don’t more public health experts examine the root causes of the mass violence incidents happening across America and around the world? School shootings, church shootings, and now a theatre massacre. Are they too readily accepting these outbreaks of madness induced mayhem?

The medical system gets the blame for not “catching” these perpetrators before they strike. The gun lobby gets criticized for fighting tougher regulations. Violent video game producers feel the heat of stinging criticism.

But, what if the solution is right under our noses? If only someone would bother to sniff it out!

What if our heavy reliance on processed and fast foods is leading to widespread nutrient imbalances?

Dr. Weston A. Price, a researcher in the 1930’s found that primitive tribes eating a whole foods, natural diet high in animal foods and animal fat had no need for prisons. The moral character of these isolated people was strong. They were not incapacitated mentally or physically. In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price describes his travels around the globe, and he marveled at the stellar character of these people who had no access to modern manufactured foods.

Could it be niacin deficiency?

On page 486 of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, is a shocking clue to the mystery of the scourge of violence amongst young people.

“While pellagra was being investigated as an interesting curiosity in Europe, it was becoming a way of life in the Southern United States…The general diet consisted of cornmeal and grits, soda biscuits, corn syrup and salt pork; and even when they had enough bulk of food, the Southerners developed sore skin and mouths, became thin and listless, and suffered from depression, hallucinations, irritability and other mental disorders.

The clinical description of the typical poor Southerner, any time between about 1900 and 1940, comes alive in the novels of William Faulkner–the brooding sullenness, suddenly shattered by outbursts of irrational anger, persecution, mania, the feeling of people living in a cruel and demented world of their own…Doctors knew very well that diet was at the bottom of all the misery they saw around them, and that disease could be kept at bay by a balanced food supply…”

Compare the modern junk food diet to the diet of poor Southerners: cereals, food bars, corn chips, crackers, and the high fructose corn syrup found in energy drinks and sodas. Not too dissimilar!

Vitamin B3 or niacin deficiency is the cause of pellegra.

When I googled Pellegra and violence, sure enough I find a letter to a U.S. Senator by Barbara Stitt, an author who once worked as a probation officer. She found that changing the diet of ex-offenders eliminated the hostility and other symptoms that would lead them to act out in a criminal fashion.

Her book is aptly titled, Food & Behavior: A Natural Connection and her work seems to confirm the findings of Dr. Weston A. Price on nutritional injury and the role it plays in juvenile delinquency and adult crimes.

A review of Barbara’s book mentions her concern about reactive hypoglycemia, sub-clinical pellegra and vitamin B deficiencies being at the root of violent criminal’s actions.

Check out this revealing quote from the review:

“The startling part of sub-clinical pellagra, like hypoglycemia, is that the symptoms also mirror those of schizophrenia, a problem so widespread that those who suffer from it occupy one out of every four hospital beds in the United States.”

The reviewer also excerpts a fascinating table from her book:

“A third topic the author details is vitamin B deficiencies, giving symptoms that could easily be confused with mental disorders. These B vitamins include B1, B2, B6, and B12. B12 deficiencies, for example, are well known for causing mental disturbances, such as paranoia, mental confusion, and dementia. In fact, the included table that compares vitamin B deficiencies to neuropsychiatric disorders is uncanny:”


Credit: Food and Behavior by Barbara Stitt

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

If you are a crime scene investigator and you are willing to start checking the pantry cupboards and refrigerator, as well as the computer hard drives of the assassins, please let Hartke is Online! know. We would like to see these increasing random acts of mass murder end.

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for The Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit.


  1. Excellent post! More attention needs to be paid to the relationship between diet and behavior. It seems very likely that many eating the SAD diet are suffering from sub-clinical pellagra … Not many know that one of the primary signs of pellagra is irrational aggression.

  2. I do think that diet can play a part, but the biggest factor is their profile. Dan Korem wrote a book called “The Rage of the Random Actor” and in this book he clearly defines the profile of those who commit these violent acts. His system also includes a relatively simple method he says will help defuse many people he calls โ€œrandom actors.โ€ It’s an incredible book and very helpful resource.

    The Dallas Morning News recently did a story on Mr. Korem:

  3. Deliciously Organic, It appears you are confusing finding the cause with identifying possible perpetrators. We need to work on both to stop these killings as soon as possible. Profiling could help to quickly identify those who are apt to commit such a horrendous crime (but could also easily lead to fear and suspicion of unusual but harmless individuals) while finding the cause will allow us to improve the mental and physical health of countless individuals who are suffering. Based on my recent research and personal experience, I believe diet plays a very strong role in the development of mental illness and needs to play an equally strong role in its treatment.

  4. I found this post a bit disturbing and … well, rude. No, Weston Price people, this is not about food. Come on. The cause of these shootings involve several societal and psychological factors. Please don’t be so cavalier as to simplify it to diet. Seriously.

    • you are what you eat! if a child eats only mac n cheese and hot dogs, how will his brain develop, you think?????

      • I agree with Rutha… sorry for stepping in the conversation out of the blue but it is true… you are what you eat.

  5. Agree completely, LOTS of bad brain chemistry out there, it’s becoming increasingly frightening. If people truly & deeply understood how toxic and devastating to health & brain function ALL industrial human made ‘foods’ really are they’d abandon them completely, as more and more people every day around the world are doing upon realizing the truth: that we’ve been lied to about the safety of processed ‘foods’ for the last 80 years.

    In 1900, shortly before the invention of processed ‘foods’ and vegetable oils, when virtually the entire world subsisted on fresh, whole, natural foods and an agrarian farm style diet, cancer and heart disease rates were ONLY 3 to 5 percent, Type 2 diabetes was virtually unseen prior to WW2.

    It’s gonna take a LOT more than bans on smoking, sodas, sugar, mutant wheat & grains and trans fats to correct the health of the world’s people. It’s gonna take a return to the real foods and the old ways of real food production that sustained us for thousands of years that, ironically, got us to the point in history where we started thinking we were smarter than nature and can eat any and all ‘modern’ genetically manipulated & modified foods and oils of our own creation and have superior health & disease reisitance.

    We can’t, and the 50 percent obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease contraction rates are not just proof otherwise, but also a hard slap in the face and reality check to anyone that thinks they’re smarter than nature & their own body. I got news for you, you’re not, never have been & never will be. Time to get over ourselves & live healthy, happy, productive, pain & disease free lives and be a blessing to each other instead of a drain on the world.

  6. Healthy in TN says:

    Found this article so fascinating! After becoming familiar with Dr. Campbell-McBride’s work (and using her methods to increase our gut health), after greatly improving thyroid health via nutrition that was right for me (by increasing foods containing certain nutrients and completely avoiding foods that interact with the thyroid), after seeing the tremendous changes healthy meat, diary & eggs can make, after radically reversing health issues via getting my fats right & after dramatic health changes after having mercury fillings removed, cavitations removed and bad crowns replaced – yes, diet can make all the difference! Can’t even imagine someone’s mental state if they are eating unhealthy food, such as the typical fast food or grocery store/factory food, all loaded with chemicals, preservatives, hormones, pesticides, etc., smoking, taking OTC & prescription meds & drinking unfiltered water filled with chemicals, chlorine, fluoride, etc. I was eating very healthy in comparison to those poisons and still had a long way to go to actual health.

    I have rarely seen a healthy looking criminal, esp. for violent crimes. Most already don’t look healthy, have poor complexions, pale skin, dark circles, etc. Now, not all unhealthy people commit crimes, obviously. But how many healthy people do this sort of thing?

  7. See this is why I thought psychology and nutrition go hand in hand. So much can be solved by just re-examining nutrition. In a way, we don’t realize how the chemicals in the brain react to certain foods. And by that “chemical reaction”, people behave a certain way. Also, what we eat affects our mood. When we go through a break-up “we crave comfort food”. And we feel “better”.

  8. This line of inquiry most definitely needs further investigation. Hopefully more will be done in the near future. I also think more research needs to be done following in the footsteps of COL Dave Grossman, author of On Combat and On Killing, two books that make a strong case for the impact that violence in all media, but violent video games in particular, are having on the safety of our society. It seems reasonable that media violence along with bad diet is creating an enormous upswing in violence. I wish it would end. @Nh: not sure why you would choose to be offended by the suggestion that food may contribute to this problem of violence. It certainly deserves a critical look because something is clearly wrong.

  9. So. You’re all going to sit here and say that if everyone just ate better, there’d be fewer or no more shootings? That’s simplistic and ridiculous to say. People are falling apart and wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. The situation in this country is pretty crazy & bleak for some. I fear things will only get worse and the violence will only escalate. For you to sit here and say that if we just change our diets, all will be well… ludicrous. The world & it’s ills do not revolve around Weston Price.

  10. Most or maybe all of the shooters were taking or had just withdrawn from psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, all of which have homicidal and suicidal ideation as possible side effects.

    Nutritional deficiencies certainly can affect a person mentally but don’t usually produce the extreme violence that we’re seeing these days in mass shootings (and mass knifings). These incidents really began after the introduction of psychotropic drugs.

    And yes, many people are feeling very bleak about how they’re going to pay their bills as one commenter said and that may drive them to take antidepressants in an attempt to lessen their mental anguish. But, if they didn’t take the drugs, I don’t think financial desperation alone would drive them to kill massive numbers of people. It’s the drugs.

    For the facts, read this:

  11. SH–I thought about adding the line, And what if pharmaceutical drugs make matters worse? But the blog post would have gotten too long if I tried to tackle both issues. I am glad you added this link, though, because that is a valid concern. WAPF in our last Wise Traditions Journal had an article about drugs causing nutrient deficiencies. So you can imagine if you are already nutrient deprived that they would make matters much, much worse.

    Medical professionals who don’t do a nutritional intake evaluation before dispensing drugs are making a big mistake, in my opinion. Sometimes a better diet or eliminating bad things from the diet could even avoid the need for drugs.

  12. I have often wondered about this, especially based on the principles of GAPS. I recently came across an article about the high levels of violence in the Illinois prison system possibly being linked to their high consumption of soy. Natural News recently wrote an article about this, titled something about a zombie apocalypse, but the point he made was that what we are consuming is literally destroying the part of our brain that deals with empathy and emotions, making us all zombies.

  13. barefootmommy says:

    Another thing to consider is that these same symptoms can also be brought on by hypothyroidism, which can be contributed to by a Vitamin B deficiency since B vitamins are necessary for proper thyroid function.

    When I was in an extreme hypothyroid state I got really paranoid and fearful, looking back I realized what I thought was normal at the time was most certainly “mental illness”. (p.s. I’m fine now ๐Ÿ™‚ I actually follow a mix of WAPF and Dr. Ray Peat’s guidelines which have been a very beneficial addition to my life).

  14. Interesting theory. You’re probably on to something…

    Also, glad to finally be receiving your blog updates!

  15. TheGlutenRevolution says:

    Diet and nutrition certainly play a part in this. Gluten is proven to cause psychosis, schitzephrenia, depression and anxiety. Most people are completely unaware they are sensitive to it, although conservative estimates are that 33% of the population are. Psychological illness is only one manifestation, while hundreds of conditions have now been linked to it. In addition, people who are gluten sensitive tend to have nutritional deficiencies and impaired digestion. For the people who do not believe that diet could possibly play a role in all of this, please educate yourself. The research is there, and it is solid. Yes, there are multiple factors that come into play as to why one person who is gluten sensitive develops postpartum psychosis or schitzephrenia, vs someone else who develops Hashimotos – but the cause is the same. Food is a powerful drug, and can either help or harm you, and gluten is deadly and outright devastating to a significant portion of the population.

  16. My 3+ years of informal research into lipids and essential fatty acids has led me to some amazing & astounding information. The great late lipid scientists Hugh Macdonald Sinclair & David Horrobin pioneered much of the research & discovered that depression, bipolar and even schizophrenia can be resolved in as little as two weeks by correcting deficiencies of the essential fatty acids that are absolutely required for good health and proper brain chemistry. The human brain is a densely fatty structure, 60 to 70% fats, and all of human physiology, including proper brain function, is completely dependent on the fats & other nutrients a person chooses to eat. Pharmaceutical drugs used to ‘treat’ or ‘mitigate’ symptoms of abnormal brain function only mask & ultimately compound the brain function abnormalities caused by basic nutrient & fatty acid deficiencies.

    Our bodies can only use the nutrients we feed it for cellular structure, hormone production and metabolic processes. Despite ‘fortification’, diets high in foods made by humans are nutrient depleted and loaded with Trans Fats and defective, adulterated, biologically dead vegetable poly oils to make them indefinitely ‘shelf stable’ in the interest of minimizing waste to maximize sales & corporate profits.

    The diseases that result from modern, human made industrial ‘food’ diets are so common they are believed to be natural or genetic, inevitable and a largely unpreventable fact of life. People believe our current experience to be as it always has been, have NO knowledge or cognizance of life prior to 1900 & processed foods, and refuse to believe these diseases are UN-natural and even PREVENTABLE simply because people born around 1920 and raised on these ‘foods’ and diets have never known life to be otherwise. Well, that and also because most people’s brains are so addled with sugar and defective fats that they can’t think straight, have attention spans measured in pico seconds, and as you say are combative and argumentative and refuse to learn anything new that lies outside of their limited experience. And yes I’m including NH in that group.

    Was there murder & killing prior to 1900 & processed foods? Sure. Were there also sociopaths, psychopaths & schizophrenics? Yup, goes all the way back to Able & Cain who, interestingly, is described as a crop farmer. I think it’s safe to say he chose farming because he loved plants & probably was the world’s first veganarian. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother because God rejected his offerings of produce but accepted Abel’s sacrifice “from the firstborn of his flock and their FATS. Vegan & vegetarian diets are known to cause anemia, depression & brain disregulations because the avoidance of essential fats and animal proteins causes deficiencies of critical B vitamins not supplied by veganarian diets.

    And so we come full circle and end up back at the beginning. The best thing NH and everyone else could do for optimal brain & body health is eat a pound of bacon, some liver and steak each week and supplement daily with 2.5 grams (half teaspoon) of organic cold pressed Omega-6 evening primrose, sunflower or safflower oil balanced with 1 gram of flax, or half a teaspoon of hempseed oil. Think CLEARLY, not deeply.

    “The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.” Nikola Tesla

  17. Joanie Blaxter says:

    Great post, Kimberly, if for no other reason than how few people will take this issue on – it’s the elephant in the room! It’s commonly accepted knowledge that psychosis is a physiological imbalance and yes, NH, stress – as well as poor nutrition – cause physiological imbalance. It would be myopic to ignore one for the other. However at this point I’d say that culturally it’s more like we’re blinded in one eye – all we (at the behest of the medical system when it has no “answers”) do is point to stress as a causative. Unfortunately, that places the blame squarely back on the victim!
    I’ve been aware of Barbara Stitt’s experiments with inmates’ diets for several years. Unfortunately, no one that I’m aware of in the penal system has yet to pick up on her example. I’m also reminded of the founder of AA who discovered that megadoses of niacin were so powerful at dispelling his depression and thus reducing his cravings for alcohol that he wanted to use AA to promote it to all alcoholics.
    As an aside, for future articles you may also want to research Pyroluria. It’s an inherited condition affecting 11% of the population that causes chronic deficiencies of B Complex, especially B6, and zinc. When you begin testing population of alcoholics, the mentally unstable, etc the percentage goes into the 60-70-80% range. B6 is necessary for the final stage of serotonin production so the hypothesis goes that when one is chronically seroton-deficient, one tends to drink, do drugs, etc in order to self-medicate. I learned about this from Theresa Vernon, who’s going to be speaking at the next WAPF conference in the fall.
    Once again, fascinating post!

    • I agree with Joanie , seriously Ms. Hartke.. only if everyone thought like you.. would nt it be great. But all the deficiency issue boils down to family care offered to a child. The education level of the parents, the level of awareness and to a very good extent their financial levels. But eating healthy does not have to be expensive … but can only be supervised when one of the two parents is monitoring what goes in the mouth and care enough to stock a health giving pantry and refrigerator for the kids.

  18. Kimberly Hartke says:

    I think I want to attend that guy’s cancer classes! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. I am reading a book called Anatomy of and Epidemic by Robert Whitaker about how pharmaceutical drugs came to be used for depression, bipolar disorder etc…Perhaps in the beginning these people have a nutrient deficiency then get diagnosed with depression or bipolar and are put on these drugs which creates more problems…Anyway, its an interesting book and might be one part of the puzzle in figuring out what is going on with the increase in violence and shooting…

  20. SH – glad you added your comment. I too believe it’s the drugs. The book “Mad in America” is truly eye opening.

  21. Great post, Kimberley. I think there is a lot to this. Sharing!

  22. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Thanks to all of you for adding resources to this post in the comments. Maybe some public health official or journalist will start to do some deep research on this subject. They would actually be able to win a Nobel Peace Prize by getting to the truth of this scourge.

  23. Sylvia Onusic says:

    Kim, What a great article !.
    When I was doing research for the article in “Wise Traditions” about drugs and nutrient depletions, I came across much information on pellagra.. lack of niacin… It seems that there was a great deal of pellagra in Italy. Spain and other countries among the poor and peasants that were living on basically a corn diet in the 19-20 th centuries. Lack of B vitamins severely damages the nervous system. But we find many cases of pellagra,not only in Europe, but also in the South among poor farmers and laborers through out the major part of the 20th century. And dont forget that the government has added fluoride to the mix which affects the brain as well. And then we can’t forget soy, found in many processed foods, which contains high amounts of copper and manganese. In Kaayla Daniel’s book, “The Whole Soy Story,” she describes the effects of manganese on the brain. Carl Pfeiffer and Anne Louise Gittleman both discuss the effects of too much copper on the brain relating to the development of schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

  24. This article makes a great deal of sense, as do Sylvia’s excellent comment.

    I think another key factor is the use of drugs. Every one of these shooters has been on some form of prescription drug that was supposed to help them. If we banned all these drugs, which never seem to give anything but temporary relief,
    These horrible incidents just might not happen.

  25. Thanks for posting this! I bought that book once, and then lent it away to someone, and was unable to remember/hunt down the title/author of the book, though when talking to people about nutrition I’ll often mention the parole officer who reformed criminals by changing their diets.

  26. Inalienable Wrights says:

    Could be any one of a dozen essential nutrients….
    Get rid of the medical monopoly if you want to make progress on this front.

  27. I would really like to believe that the food being eating this days: overly processed, nutrient-deficient “food”, is part of the cause of the violence, but I cannot help but wonder, then, what caused the violence of the past? The Inquisitions, the Crusades, just to name a couple overt examples.
    Were the people involved in these massacres deficient in some nutrient/vitamin/mineral? If so, how did it come about?
    I think food is an important part of our declining society, but there are other factors at play. Something went wrong a LONG time ago to make possible today’s twisted world.


  1. […] Vitamin B3 may also be a significant factor. Please see this post and this one for more […]

  2. […] 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 diet is too blame in setting these children up for mental […]

  3. […] Unfortunately we live in the age of antibiotics, the contraceptive pill, junk food, personal care products and stress, all of which kill off the beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract while making room for pathogenic microbes that may induce conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Excessive intake of processed foods can also cause nutritional deficiencies like pellagra, which cac produce symptoms nearly identical to schizophrenia and lead to violent behavior. (source 1, source 2) […]

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