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Name: Bobby Joe
Status: Educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
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Date: N/A 


Question:
Every time we hear about kids killing kids. The question comes up What (were/are) they thinking? Is there a bio-chemical/nutritional connection in their cognitive processes? Is it cumulative over the last 100 years?

Can the addition of food preservatives over the last 100 years effect the genetic cognitive abilities we now see in the general population? Have the nutritional (vitamins,minerals, aminoacids+++) values, declined in the foods we consume, also have a cumulative effect on the genetic cognitive abilities.

Finaly can both the preservatives and declining nutritional food values work together in effecting genetic changes in healthy cognitive. processes?



Replies:
The U.S. food supply now has the highest safety and quality it has ever had. However, people do not always choose to eat the most nutritious foods available.

I greatly doubt that schoolhouse murderers are genetically or neurologically deranged. The DO tend to be outcasts. Perhaps it would be more fruitful for us to examine the social environments of our schools to learn why some students are so marginalized that they can see no better course of action than to attack their peers and supervisors.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois


Mineral depletion of soil is mostly a problem for the farmer, not the eater. If plants don't have the minerals they need, they won't grow well. If the soil in a banana plantation lacks potassium, the trees will make fewer bananas. But if you eat one of the bananas that manages to grow, it will still be a good source of potassium.

Are antisocial kids malnourished? I can't disprove it, as I have no data. But I strongly suspect that the problem lies elsewhere.

If you think that schoolhouse violence is a uniquely modern phenomenon, you may want to re-read the first chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder's children's book _Farmer Boy_.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.


This is a difficult question. I am not a food specialist, neither an antropogeneticist, but my first thought when reading your question was: this is Lamarckism. Lamarck was an 18th Century biologist who believed genetic properties could be gained and selected for during life of a single organism and passed on to its offspring. His theory was later misinterpreted to this simplified view: a father who lost a leg in an accident would have the risk of having a child with only one leg.

Our current understanding of genetics clearly no longer allows for Lamarckistic explanations. Having said that, we know that genetic content is not static, it is sensitive to mutations and mutations can accumulate. Furthermore, mutations can be induced by influences from the environment. Radiation is a clear example, but mutagenic/teratogenic toxins that affect the DNA of egg/sperm cells also exist. Then the question is: could certain food additives be mutagenic? and, would these mutations be accumulating in our population? And would these result in violent kids?

Altogether this scenario seems highly unlikely. If food additives were mutagenic it would have been detected in tests determining the daily allowed maximum dosis. Lack of vitamins is not a modern problem, in contrast, our diet is rich in comparison to the past. It is unlikely that in the hundred thousands of years of human mankind the diet has always been as rich in vitamins and minerals as it is today.

Let's assume multiple mutations are required for violence. Accumulations of mutations leading to a specific characteristic can only happen if there would be a positive selection and we don't select for violent kids. Even if there was a mutational effect of modern-day food or life-style, these mutations would be random, not leading to one single characteristic. There have been suggestions how food additives could affect children's behavior, e.g. ADHD syndrome, and this could potentially result in increased violence. However, there is little evidence that genetic defects or mutations are involved in this, and certainly no evidence that mutations would be caused by foods or food additives directly.

As a mother I'd like to add that children are born uncivilized, primitive, and cruel. It is the responsability of a balanced upbringing and education to temper this. With balanced I mean not only to suppress negative behavior, but also stimulate positive feelings (self-esteem, responsability, etc.). My view is that juvenile violence is a social problem, not a biochemical one. And here's another factor: 200 years ago a violent kid could knife maybe 1 or two victims before being stopped. Now a (machine) gun can kill tens in seconds. And we hear about these things where ever they occur. That explanains the increase in killed victims, and the increase of our awareness of this.

Finally the public interest and 'press factor' adds to the 'thrill' of imitation for children who have not yet grown into balanced adults who restrict themselves to proper behavior.

Dr. Trudy Wassenaar



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