How Food Affects Behavior

Food and Behavior BookBarbara Reed Stitt wrote Food and Behavior to document her work with thousands of probationers and her success in changing their diets – and their lives.  Her approach used whole, fresh, real foods, which corrected brain functions and behavior allowing them to become contributing members of society.   Stitt also noted that many going into prison have an even worse diet while incarcerated than the fast foods they were eating before prison.  These people come out with more behavioral issues and a further damaged brain.  (Stitt, 2004)

The background of Stitt’s story is important.  She was chief probation officer for the Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court and in 1963 became seriously ill.  Her physicians could not help her. She discovered a book by Gaylord Hauser that changed her life.  After consuming only “live” foods, as Gaylord proposed and healing herself, Stitt realized that her probationers were junk food addicts, as she had been, consuming 50 to 150 teaspoons of sugar a day; many were alcoholics as well.  Soon the judges were sending probationers to her saying ‘eat what Barbara tells you or I’ll put you in jail.’ Stitt had remarkable success with thousands of people and a 20% recidivism rate, which is extraordinary.  On average, 67% of ex-prisoners are re-arrested and 51% go back to jail.  (Stitt, 2004)

Stitt is not the only one to say that food matters and prisoners’ meals are important. In 1978, Alex Schauss was one of the first to show that an improved diet could decrease recidivism.  He studied a cohort of 102 probationers separated into four groups.  Recidivism data was collected for a year.  The two groups that received either nutrition counseling or nutrition education had significantly lower re-arrest rates.  Schauss’s approach used the orthomolecular diet that Barbara Reed Stitt employed in her work.  (Schauss, 1978)

brain foodEmma Gordon, the author of Broccoli or Broken Windows? The relationship between antisocial behavior and a nutrient deficient diet looked at the difference in diets from the same town in England and compared the diets of those who were arrested for anti-social behavior (ASB) and a same-aged control group.  The daily food consumption in the ASB adolescents showed a lack of nutrients, especially zinc, iron, B vitamins and protein in the first 3 years of life. The study concluded that this lack caused aggressive and anti-social behavior later in their lives. By the age of 8, the ASB children were more hyperactive and aggressive; by 11, the same kids were displaying delinquent tendencies and by 17 were externalizing behavioral problems leading to adult criminal activities.  (Gordon, 2011)

The British Journal of Psychiatry published a randomized control trial study in a prison with 231 prisoners.  One group received vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids in supplement form; the control group had look-alike placebos.  There was a statistically significant reduction in both major and minor infractions during the course of the 9-month study.  The baseline data of the two groups was the same in terms of the number of infractions.  Infractions were reduced by 35.1% compared to the baseline data and 26.3% compared to the placebo group.  Clearly changing diet or nutrient intakes in order to reduce anti-social and violent behavior in prisons has excellent implications.  (Gesch, Hammond, Hampson, Eves, & Crowder, 2002)

The cohort study, Confectionery consumption in childhood and adult violence, followed 17,415 from birth to 42.  Overall, 69% of the participants convicted for a violent crime by age 34 had reported that they had eaten candy or other sugary foods nearly every day in childhood. Only 42% of the non-violent participants reported having eaten candy or sugary food daily as a child.  This is a statistically significant result.  The researchers surveyed each participant 7 times from ages 5 to 42, asking about diet, sugar intake, and behavior.  The authors concluded that eating sugary foods daily as a child predicts perpetration of violence in adulthood, even when taking into other factors such as economics and personality traits.  (Moore, Carter, & van Goozen, 2009)

The above studies are a good foundation for understanding how food can have profound effects on behavior to the point that it can lead to violent crimes.


Gesch, C. B., Hammond, S. M., Hampson, S. E., Eves, A., & Crowder, M. J. (2002). Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behavior of young adult prisoners: Randomized, placebo-controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 181, 22-28. Retrieved from:

Gordon, E. (2011). Broccoli or Broken Windows? The relationship between anti social behavior and a nutrient deficient diet. Internet Journal of Criminology. ISSN 2045-6743 (Online). Retrieved from:

Moore, S. C., Carter, L. M., & van Goozen, S. (2009). Confectionery consumption in childhood and adult violence. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 195, 366-7. Retrieved from:

Schauss, A. G. (1978). Differential outcomes among probationers through the use of orthomolecular approaches and casework/counseling. National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Retrieved from:

Stitt, B. R. (2004). Food and Behavior. Manitowoc, WI: Natural Press

June Spotlight: Jim Last

Jim Last on MotorcycleJim is a frequent and regular student at the Hammock. His wife, Lita, introduced him to yoga about two years ago, and now he cannot imagine life without it.

Yoga has enabled him to do many more things he used to do when he was younger. Jim is a veritable fountain of youth! He often ends a yoga session exclaiming, “Rock and Roll!”

Jim enjoys riding motorcycles and playing with anything that has to with internal combustion.  Jim brings a spark to the classes.




May Spotlight: Lynda Austin

Lynda AustinHi! I’m Lynda Austin and I have been a member of the Hammock Yoga Studio since it met for sessions at Cherry Creek Elementary back in 2008 when Sarah was an instructor through Lowell Community Education. I was reluctant to get into yoga as I thought it not much of a physical workout. But with the urging of Marcia Kapolka; a fitness friend from a Toning with Weights class, I tried the yoga experience.

How wrong I was in my thinking that yoga was an ineffective exercise regimen! As I struggled to hold my first Warrior pose for the requisite 30 seconds, I was certain my arms weighed at least 10 pounds apiece! I soon realized that yoga is kind of a sneak attack exercise practice. To hold a yoga pose demands that all of your concentration and body be attuned to the muscles required to hold your arms in this way, your legs in that way, your core helping stabilize and center your efforts. I could no longer let my mind drift to tasks on my to-do list and run through the motions in a yoga class. It took almost a whole year of a regular yoga practice to even learn to breathe properly – as Sarah says “There is power in the breath”. When I learned to breathe with my poses, I became more attuned to slight nuances in body alignment that helped enrich the pose and my whole practice. I now know the power of the breath and have passed it on to my Storytime kids in my job at the public library.

Yoga is a time just for myself. I can let the stress and worry of everyday life melt away and focus solely on myself and how I am feeling. I think only of the breath, the opposing movement of arms, legs, feet, hands, and head and of balance. I can tailor my movements to how I am feeling in the moment because the movement is just for me, not the rest of the class or the instructor or anyone else. It is my hour of that day where I can put ME front and center with no regrets, apologies or shame. I hope to engage in a regular yoga practice until a very old age. I have made some wonderful friends in this studio. Yoga makes me happy…a peaceful happiness. Thank you.

I am married to Dave, who I met on a spring break sailing trip while we were both students at Michigan State University. We have two sons, Eric and Kyle, who are married to a couple of lovely women, Kimi and Rachael. We have two granddaughters, Sofia (10) and Ruby (1) who are the loves of our lives! Dave and I have lived in Lowell for 25 years. I work part-time at the Englehardt Branch of Kent District Library surrounded by things I enjoy immensely – great books, interesting library patrons and fun-loving Toddler Time kids!

March Spotlight: Tammy Johnson

Tammy Johnson Beautiful DayI get inspired by beautiful nature scenery and unique architecture. When I look at these types of visuals, my creativity perks up and I feel positive, energized, yet peaceful. It is because of the beauty, the colors, the shapes, the patterns. I love seeing these types of elements all around me.

I am a creative soul; it is a big part of who I am. When I was growing up, I loved writing poetry; now I love exploring new art techniques and the process of simply creating something. It fills a thirst inside me, it brings energy, and it gives mindful rest. During the day I am an art director at a publishing company working on book cover design.

My good friend Marge told me about the yoga classes at The Hammock, so I came because of her. I have been practicing yoga for about 9 years now and plan to always practice yoga for strength, balance, and flexibility. My body really needs these.

I love the atmosphere at The Hammock: the personalities of the teachers and their styles of teaching yoga; the room and lighting. Lovely people practice yoga. I have made friends there and the classes are fun. The classes offered at a yoga student’s swimming pool are such a treat every summer.

Simply go to a class to experience it at your own pace. Know that each person is there for themselves and their own workout journey; there is no competition. Breathing is a primary part of yoga and the teachers help you learn this. It is very important to how your body works in yoga.

More about Tammy

You are a new addition to the crayon box…what color would you be and why? I think I would be a teal color. Teal likes to enjoy life, laugh in the face of danger, and stay interested in learning.

Describe your color to someone who is blind. Refreshing, curious, thriving.

The last three years I have been creating mandalas. The circular shape, patterns, and colors that you can fill Mandalas with really appeal to me for some reason. I’ve created them with markers, color pencils, and paints on paper and furniture. Lately, I have been teaching how to create mandalas with paint dots on rocks and other objects. I love what the dots create as a whole and every mandala is beautiful.

On a personal side, my hubby, Steve and I are blessed to have our son, Brett in 9th grade, and our older son Aaron, who lives and works in Kalamazoo, MI. We also include our calico cat, Butterscotch, in the family mix.

February Spotlight: Sharon Dickenson

Sharon DickensonI have been in sales/marketing for most of my career and have been fortunate to be able to travel the world and see so many different places, cultures and meet so many wonderful people.  It has taught me to be open to new people and situations as unbelievable opportunities are opened to you.  I’m inspired by our great country and the opportunity we have to travel freely and explore every state and the people in it.

I met Sarah and started yoga about 4 years ago.  I had gone to yoga classes when my boys were younger with a group of friends.  All of whom are still friends today.  As I remember, it was much easier back then than when I started with Sarah.   At the time I investigated yoga again I was having difficulty with my knees, back and getting up and down off the floor.  Our beginning Gentle Yoga class was just three people, Barb, Bonnie and me.  It was a great way to start strengthening my body.  The class has grown and I’m fortunate to have many new friends from our class.  

I’m 76 years young and plan on continuing to come to yoga until I’m no longer physically able to make it.  It not only keeps our bodies flexible and moving but it wonderful for the soul.

My advice to new yoga students is the start slow, listen to your body but remember to push a bit beyond your comfort level.  I guess that applies not only to yoga but to life. 

 If I were to be a new color, I would be sunshine yellow.   Sunshine is good for our body and mind.