Childhood sweet tooth can trigger violence

October 12, 2009


I sometimes get a strong sense of déjà-vu as a story I reported on years ago resurfaces as ‘new’ in a slightly different guise. Those of you who have heard me speak on alternative health will have heard me tell of the prison experiment in the USA where they replaced the normal diet with whole foods and no sugary sweets or snacks. The result was a substantial drop in violence

Now new research shows that children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to be violent as adults, according to a study of almost 17,500 participants published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry. The study is the first to examine the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence and they found that 10-year-olds who ate sweets daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence by the time they were 34 years of age.

Researchers from Cardiff University studied results from the 1970 British Cohort Study and they found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

Of course sweet eating is not only the only factor in violent behaviour, but the link between eating sweets and chocolate and violence remained after other factors were taken into account.

Nor, for once, can the blame be laid solely at the door of sugar consumption although it is certainly relevant. The researchers put forward several explanations for the link, but according to lead researcher Dr Simon Moore they believe that giving children sweets and chocolate regularly may stop them learning how to wait to obtain something they want. Not being able to defer gratification may push them towards more impulsive behaviour, which is strongly associated with delinquency.

Appeasement seems to be a parental strategy I see a lot of these days – probably because I travel more by bus. The use of sweets as a pacifier is certainly not a new tactic, but the link to the child’s belief that they are entitled to what they demand immediately may well be an important factor that sets up a pattern. If a belief that they are always going to be entitled to have what they want, when they want it, is not very social behaviour but is something we are seeing a lot more of. Wonder if it will affect the sales of selection boxes this Christmas?


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...