Soda and Aggression / Prenatal Diet

This week’s health e-letter is based on the following two articles:

Poor Prenatal Diet Linked to Kids’ Behavioral Problems. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Pyschiatry. 2013;52:1038-1047.

Soda Linked to Aggression, Inattention in Kids. Journal of Pediatrics, published online, August 15, 2013.

When I was in high school and even in college, the standard party line from our conventional health care system was that what you ate had no bearing on health and disease. I always suspected, intuitively, that the argument was wrong, but now a plethora of research is proving just how much in error this thinking has been. The above two articles, recently published in prestigious medical journals present research indicating just how important diet is to a child’s mental well being.

The first article is a published study from Norway. This study proved that dietary patterns during pregnancy and in the first five year of life have important effects on children’s mental health.

Children who ate more unhealthy foods, defined in the study as chips, buns, cakes, waffles, chocolate, cookies, sweets, soda, ice cream, popsicles, bread with jam or honey, pizza, and soda with artificial sweeteners, had higher levels of internalizing behaviors such as worry, sadness, crying, and anxiety, as well as externalizing behaviors, including aggression, tantrums, hyperactivity, and defiant behavior.

In comparison, children who ate more healthy foods, defined as white fish, oily fish, boiled and raw vegetables, fruit, bread with fish products, eggs, bread with meat, Norwegian brown cheese, and fish products, had lower levels of these problem behaviors.

What the mothers ate during their pregnancy also affected these behaviors. An unhealthy prenatal diet consisting of higher intake of processed meats, refined cereals, sweet drinks, and salty snacks predisposed offspring to more behavioral problems, whereas a healthy diet, consisting of higher intake of vegetables, fruit, high-fiber cereals, and vegetable oils, was associated with fewer behavioral problems in the children.

It certainly appears from this study that fish should play an important role in our diets. The author suggested that considering the results of this study, improving the food environment should be taken seriously by policy makers. (I guess that might depend of what the policy makers are eating.) I can certainly understand why we need dietary changes in our school lunch programs.

The second study showed similar evidence:

Consumption of even 1 soft drink per day may be associated with increased negative behavior in young children. Those who drank 1 to 4 servings of soda per day had significantly higher aggressive measurement scores than their peers who drank no soda.

Further analyses showed that the children who consumed the highest levels of soda were more than twice as likely to destroy others’ belongings, physically attack people, or get into fights. This study indicated that the behavior problems with soda was dose related: the more soda consumed, the worse the behavior.

I found the criticisms of these studies to be quite interesting:

In response to the soda study, the American Beverage Association issued the following statement: “It is a leap to suggest that drinking soda causes these or any other behavioral issue. The science does not support that conclusion. The authors themselves note that their study ‘is not able to identify the nature of the association between soft drinks and problem behaviors.’ ”

It is really difficult for manufacturers of unhealthy food and beverages to face the music when it comes to how their products affect health. No matter how scientific the study, money always trumps good science.


The criticism of the first study was even more interesting. Dr. Scott Benson, MD, a child psychiatrist in Pensacola, Florida had these comments: “The effect size is not gigantic and reflects the idea that what we eat is important, but it certainly is not as life critical. If we got everyone to eat healthy food, it’s not going to prevent as much of these illnesses that we see. What pregnant woman in this era is going to eat unhealthy foods?”

What planet is this guy living on? He doesn’t feel that eating a healthy diet will solve a lot of our health issues? Good science certainly points otherwise. Does he really believe that all pregnant females eat a healthy diet? What about all of those unmarried young teenage girls in the ghetto having children out of wedlock? How healthy are they eating during pregnancy? What about the pregnant women in rural Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee? Do they have adequate diets, or even the knowledge to eat properly for a pregnancy?

I have found that unhealthy diets are the norm in our culture-one reason we see so much obesity and depression. These two studies go to show that denying children soda and feeding them a healthy diet will go a long way into turning them into healthy adults without the risk of the myriad of mental health issues we see.

If you are interested in a dietary analysis, or understanding your blood profile, please call Kris at 402-488-2220 and she will be glad to schedule you for a consultation.

Sincerely,  Paul Firnhaber,  Lincoln Disc and Nutrition Center

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