How Food Plays a Role in the Mental Wellness of America

    In the early days of my foray into researching how food could possibly be a factor in my three children’s health issues—life-threatening allergies, autism symptoms, recurring rashes, and erratic behaviorI discovered the book Food and Behavior, the Natural Connection, by Barbara Reed Stitt, Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. As a chief probation officer, Stitt studied high school students, dropouts, parolees, criminals, and serial killers for 20 years in the late 80s and early 90s, and their behavior in relation to food.

    Stitt’s key finding was that parolees, serial killers, and repeat criminals all had one thing in common: Regardless of their socio-economic background, environment, or race, they all bragged that they “lived on junk food.” This was the main focus of Stitt’s study. She found that when she convinced a facility such as an inner-city high school to remove sugary sodas and junk food vending machines and replaced highly processed lunch foods with whole foods and healthy choices, a significant change in behavior ensued. The drop-out rate of 500 students a year was reduced to 14 a year after the healthy food was introduced. When prisoners took on Stitt’s recommended diet changes, 80% of them never returned to prison, the opposite of normal recidivism rates. One might argue that it may not have been just the nutritional quality of the food, but the fact that the students and prisoners felt that the facility cared about their health and in return cared more about their own education and lives. That could be true.

    However, an article I found in the Smithsonian a short time later proved how essential proper nutrition is. A French farmer reported a drastic decline of hamsters in his cornfield to a local university. Researchers came out and after filming and studying the hamsters, realized that the mothers were exhibiting aggressive and cannibalistic behavior. They were eating their own offspring. Upon further research, the scientists learned that these hamsters were missing one key vitamin, B3. When this one vitamin was administered to the rodents, the cannibalistic behavior completely stopped. One vitamin.

    Why were these hamsters deficient in B3? What were they eating? The article revealed that due to lack of cover crops (the fields were sprayed with herbicides) the only food the hamsters were able to eat were worms that contained no vitamin B3 and “mono crop corn,” which was found to be blocking the absorption of vitamin B3.

    Stitt’s research and a growing number of studies do confirm that children with autism symptoms and people with aggressive behavior tend to be deficient in B vitamins and that supplementing with those vitamins improves the behavior. And it does not just have to be supplementation.

    Another instance convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that food is contributing to violent behavior in America. A few years ago, days after yet another tragic school shooting, I received a phone call from a Moms Across America supporter. One of her best friends asked her to call me due to a language barrier. The supporter told me that her friend was a single mother of four and that one of her children had mental health issues. When her son was about 9 years old, she told the school, which was in a low-income Hispanic community in Southern California, and they ignored her pleas for help. Eventually, they called her and said, “You need to pick your son up from school. He just threatened to blow the whole school up with a bomb and kill everyone in it.” She reminded them that she had been asking for help and they finally agreed to send her son to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist met with her son and after assessment handed the mother a prescription.

    The mother said, “That’s it? He should just take this for the rest of his life? What about side effects, what about what’s causing his issues?”

    The doctor said, “Well it’s either this or you look at his food.” He asked her what she was feeding him and she explained, whatever she could get into him—hot dogs, pizza, tacos, burgers, chips, soda…

    The doctor asked her if she had ever thought about the toxins, dyes, preservatives, and GMOs in the food. She said no. He said, “Well, it’s either go organic or give him this prescription.”

    She decided to go organic. Even on a meager salary, she bought organic rice and beans and cut out the sodas and junk food. Within two weeks, his teacher called the mother and said, “Whatever you are doing, keep doing it. This is a completely new kid here.”

    The mother wanted me to know that her son was now 16, the same age as the recent school shooter, and she was sure that he would have been one of those kids that got a gun and killed his classmates….if she had not changed his diet. But he was not going to harm other people, he was well and healthy and had good friendships…because he was eating organic.

    It does not take a Ph.D. in biology to see that the food we are eating—highly processed, devoid of minerals and vitamins, genetically altered to withstand pesticides and herbicides, as well as artificial food dyes, synthetic additives and fillers—are impacting generations of Americans today. Our food plays a role in our mental health. It does not excuse violent behavior, but it does play a role.

    This article is a reminder to all the food manufacturers and supporters of the natural and organic food industry that your role in America is crucial. By growing, sourcing, producing, marketing, shipping, handling, trucking, loading, selling, and sharing articles about the benefits of organic whole foods, you are restoring the mental wellness of America. Thank you.

    We are in times of great unrest. America needs access to nutrient dense, organic whole foods now more than ever. We also need doctors, researchers, teachers, and reporters who will tell the truth. We need a variety of healthy whole foods not just to survive, but for our families to thrive, fulfill their potentials, and be a contribution to the future of our country.