According to a new study published in the February 2000 issue of The
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2000; 6:7-17)
vitamins may be helpful in deterring violent and anti-social behavior
among children with disruptive behaviors who may be suffering from
The study found that vitamin and mineral supplementation of school-age
children (ages 6 to 12 years old) with behavioral problems led to a
reduction in incidence of anti-social behavior.
Previous studies have shown similar findings among older
institutionalized offenders, ages 13 to 17 and 18 to 26. The study
authors in this case wanted to see if testing of school-aged children
in this case a group of working-class children in Phoenix who were
known to be disruptive would reveal similar results, with the hope
that early intervention could prevent later violent and anti-social
Over a four-month period, one group of 40 subjects was given daily
supplements formulated to provide the nutritional equivalent of
vitamins and minerals present in a well-balanced diet; the other group
of 40 received placebo. Subjects were later rated on differences in
types of serious rule violations that occurred during intervention
period. Violations included vandalism, refusal to work, uttering
obscenities, being disrespectful, disorderly conduct, assault/battery
and defiance, among others.
The study, led by Stephen J. Schoenthaler, professor of sociology and
criminal justice at California State University, Stanislaus, and Ian
D. Bier, of LB Scientific, LLC, Durham, N.H., found that of the
children who were disciplined during the school year, the 40 who
received the active supplements were disciplined 47 percent less
during the intervention process than those who received placebo.
"Poor nutritional habits in children," wrote the authors, "lead to low
concentrations of water-soluble vitamins in blood, impair brain
function and subsequently cause violence and other serious anti-social
behavior." The nutrient supplements, they theorized, corrected the low
concentrations of vitamins in blood, improved brain function and
lowered the incidence of violent and anti-social behaviors.
The authors cautioned that findings "do not imply that human behavior
is not largely a learned phenomena. The fact that most children cease
to be behavioral problems after one or two incidents is evidence that
most children prefer rewards over escalating sanctions and they have
learned from their experiences with the school administration."
However, the researchers argued that their findings have important
ramifications for a minority of children for whom both rewards and
sanctions are not effective. For this group, there is evidence that
"undiagnosed and untreated malnutrition may be impairing their brain
function to such an extent that normal learning from discipline does
With low-dose supplementation of vitamins and minerals, according to
researchers, the 40 offenders in the group "were able to appreciate
the seriousness of their actions and the disciplinary consequences."
Schoenthaler and Bier urged wider application of medical and
nutritional intervention as one possible approach to improving the
behavior of disruptive and anti-social children.