Home > Managing Behaviour > The Relationship Between Diet and Behaviour

The Relationship Between Diet and Behaviour

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 13 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Food Diet Behaviour Children Kids

Children’s behaviour changes due to many variables including their environments, the people around them, their levels of physical health and if they are experiencing stress. Just as important, though less often investigated, is their diets. Additives and sugar in particular may have an effect on children’s behaviour, but so too can food allergies and intolerances. Some children may also be lacking necessary vitamins and minerals, meaning that changing their diets and ensuring better nutrition can become paramount to better health and behaviour.

Additives and Sugar

Additives and sugar are in much of the food you eat at every meal, but many children also snack on pre-packaged foods that is stuffed with both. Sugar in particular can affect children’s behaviour because it affects blood glucose levels, and these levels affect surges of adrenaline in kids. Thus consuming sugar often results in children who have an extra burst of energy, and sometimes a corresponding lack of concentration. Additives are chemicals used to preserve foods, many of them synthetic, which can also affect children’s behaviour. Artificial colours and preservatives in particular are known to have a negative affect on children’s behaviour.

Food Allergies

Food allergies seem to be more common in children today, though this may only be because we understand more about such allergies and have better medical tests to identify them. A common behavioural side effect of food allergies is hyperactivity, which can lead children to excessive activity, poor concentration and a seeming inability to follow directions or suggestions. Common foods to which kids are allergic include:
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Fruits (often due to natural salicylates, chemicals much like aspirin)
  • Milk and dairy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat and gluten
  • Pre-packaged foods which include dyes

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are situations which often arise when a body is unable to process a food substance. They are distinct from food allergies because they do not cause a body to create antibodies against the food substance, however they can affect a child’s behaviour similarly. Negative behaviours may arise because the body is unable to tolerate a given food item and the whole system is thrown into disarray, or because children become miserable due to things like skin rashes, vomiting or effects on the bowels and act out due to their physical discomfort. Common food intolerances in children include:
  • Lactose intolerance (found in dairy)
  • Gluten intolerance (found in most grains, cereals and breads)
  • Casein protein intolerance (found in milk)
  • Wheat intolerance
  • Yeast intolerance

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are a necessary part of keeping children healthy, strong and developing correctly. Children who lack these substances, whether it is due to poor diet, not enough sun or simply not taking a daily childhood supplement, are more apt to engage in poor behaviour, show less concentration, have less energy and even have trouble staying awake during the day. GPs can help advise parents on their children’s levels of:
  • Vitamins A, B, C, D and E
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
Children’s behaviour can be due to many causes, but often adults don’t look at the relationship between diet and behaviour until other avenues have been exhausted. Additives and sugar, food allergies, food intolerances and abnormal levels of vitamins and minerals can all negatively influence children’s behaviour and concentration.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why are some health experts still claiming that sugar affects childrens behaviour when its disputed by most others now. Those tests that have been carried out have not shown any direct link between sugar and behaviour. This nonsence about sugar started back in 1922 I believe and has been jumped on by some because they have not been able to explain some childrens behaviour by other means.
John Chambers - 29-Jun-11 @ 8:34 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Weemow42
    Re: Questionnaire: Does Your Child Have ADHD?
    Hi I am also having some problems with my 12 year old son,he gets proper bullied everyday..to the point that they…
    17 October 2018
  • Ali
    Re: Children and Self-Harm
    My son is 8 and he as started biting himself for the last couple of weeks he as come to me and said kids at school are calling him thick…
    16 October 2018
  • godly owner of gods
    Re: Smacking and Children
    god does not condone this ban it
    11 October 2018
  • Sunshine
    Re: Children and Swearing
    My nearly 8 year old boy is exactly the same no matter what we do to try stop his swearing.
    10 October 2018
  • clarina
    Re: Questionnaire: Does Your Child Have ADHD?
    My daughter 9 in November has started to make cat miauwing. It is quite an annoying sound. I also feel it…
    2 October 2018
  • Nate
    Re: Grounding Children
    So well today me and my sister teased a kid and we both got a detention but when got home are mom gave us both a spanking and we both got…
    30 September 2018
  • Caroline
    Re: Interview: Working with Behavioural Issues in Children
    Myself and my husband are really struggling with our 3 children. There behaviours are…
    30 September 2018
  • Woody
    Re: Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
    My son now 15 has shown (what I think may be signs of ODD ) most noticeably since year 6. He is defiant , will challenge…
    16 September 2018
  • bbw
    Re: Children and Body Rocking
    I have rocked as long as I can remember. I would bang my head against the back of the couch so often that the metal rod in the piping…
    6 September 2018
  • pumpkin
    Re: Smacking and Children
    I am now 53 years old and am suffering from mental health issues.My father physically beat me with leather belt when mother was away,my…
    4 September 2018