Can A Bad Diet Encourage Violent Behavior? with Dr. Mark Hyman

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

The science is pretty clear: bad food creates a bad brain, which causes bad thinking, and leads to a bad life. But is it possible that a poor diet can actually promote violent or anti-social behavior? The answer is shocking. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are again joined by Dr. Mark Hyman for a discussion on how poor nutrition can affect the brain and behavior.

Read Full Transcript

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like Brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more go to
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are here with our friend Dr. Mark Hyman. His new book is Food Fix, but it's way bigger than a book.
Tana Amen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr Daniel Amen: It's how do we fix the food crisis that is damaging the brain, body, health of the world, not just America, but also damaging our minds. Your brain is the most energy-hungry organ in the body. It's only 2% of your body's weight, but it uses 20% to 30% of the calories you consume. And if you consume an inflammatory diet filled with toxins, you're not going to be thinking in a way that really helps you. And Mark, in the last podcast, you were beginning to talk about how our food is damaging our brain, which then damages our decision making, which then spills over to our relationships, our ability to manage our money, even to the divisive political climate that we find ourselves. And when world-class athletes go to the White House and are fed fast food, I don't know, I have a problem with that. It's just bad modeling to have the pizza boxes for our world-class athletes, because you know they're not world-class athletes today because they're eating crappy food, that often they have nutritionists that are really helping them. We just have to be better models for the country at large.
Dr Mark Hyman: It's so true. And I think I've been so struck, and I have a whole section in my book called food society, about how behavior and mental health, how academic performance, is all linked to food. And that the data, you and I were doing this decades ago, and everyone kind of laughed at us. But there's a whole new field of nutritional psychiatry, and how our overall diet quality, with high sugar loads and nutritional deficiencies, things like Omega-3, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D and B vitamins, all drive mental illness, and these are what people are deficient in.
Dr Mark Hyman: And I think that we see these studies, and the studies that most strike me, in terms of the effect on behavior and the brain, are these prison studies. Because it's easy to sort of do a study if you have a controlled environment, and in food it's almost impossible because people eat what they want, you can't control their diet. If you give them food and you can lock them up you actually can see what happens. And just simple interventions like giving, in prison in a randomized controlled trial, prisoners Omega-3 fats and a multivitamin reduced violent crime by 37%.
Tana Amen: It so makes sense.
Dr Mark Hyman: And an author of the study said, this was amazing, he said having a bad diet is now a better predictor of future violence than past violent behavior. And likewise, a diagnosis of psychopathy, generally perceived as being a better predictor of a criminal past, is miles behind what you can predict just from looking at what a person eats in the meantime. That's amazing.
Tana Amen: I actually read one study - tell me if you've heard of this study - where they found that by doing a very similar thing, splitting up the population, feeding one a really healthy diet that was actually fairly not an over-the-top crazy, like we can get a little extreme with some of the things we like. Other people think of them as extreme. We think of them as normal. But they just did sort of a normal cleanup.
Dr Daniel Amen: You mean like vegetables and bird and-
Tana Amen: Right. So they did sort of a cleanup on the diet, and the other half they let them continue with their diet. And not only did they see the violence decrease with the group that ate the healthy diet, but like you were just sort of alluding to, they saw a 21% decrease in recidivism, so I just thought that was amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: But yet they give them $.88 cents a day to feed the prison population.
Tana Amen: Which is insane.
Dr Daniel Amen: And it's like so, okay, so how do you do this on a budget?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, well I think it's possible. I think it's very possible, because, I think the myth that it's expensive to eat well is a myth. Yes, if you're going to eat heirloom variety of everything.
Tana Amen: Right. That's what I mean.
Dr Mark Hyman: And grass-fed everything it can get expensive. But if you're eating just real food, and getting out the junk as the first step, that's powerful. And in this one experiment of 3,000 youth that were incarcerated, they replaced the snack food and junk food, and the refined food and sugar, over 12 months. There was a 21% reduction in antisocial behavior, a 25% reduction in assaults, and a 75% reduction in the use of restraints. And a 100% percent reduction in suicides.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Mark Hyman: And that is striking, because suicide is the third-leading cause of death in teenagers, and it's increased 33% in the last decade or so, so that is just a striking thing to me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and think about it. Suicide's gone up 33% since 1999, while cancer has declined 27%. Why? It's because we're working on the wrong paradigm. A pill for every ill - I got that from you - making diagnoses based on symptom clusters, and then medicating these people, and never once talking to them about their diet. That's insane, that we need to just do this in a completely different way. Because every other field of medicine their outcomes have improved since the 1950s, but psychiatry, because we just have the wrong paradigm. And there's this great study from Australia where they looked at two outer islands. One of them had fast food restaurants, the other one didn't. And then they measured their Omega-3 fatty acid index and the level of depression. And the fast food group had significantly lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and five times the level of depression. It's the food.
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Mark Hyman: It's crazy. I mean, there's one study I quote in the book, which was shocking to me, because it was sort of an objective brain-mapping study, where they looked at EEG function before and after just 13 weeks of supplementation with a multivitamin. And the violent acts reduced by 91% compared to the control group, and the kids who were measured where deficient in iron, magnesium, B12 and Foley, all needed for great brain function. When they look at the EEG, their brainwaves, they found a major decrease in abnormal brain function after just 13 weeks of supplementations, which is amazing. It's amazing.
Dr Daniel Amen: But yet you're in an academic institution. And still, a lot of physicians, when you talk about supplementation, go there's no science. There is no research behind that. It's-
Tana Amen: Expensive urine.
Dr Daniel Amen: Nothing more than expensive urine.
Dr Mark Hyman: But if you ask them what they do they all take them. Actually, we did a survey when I got here. We did a survey when I got here that shocked the heck out of me, which was we wanted to see what was the utilization in the clinic of supplements, what percent of our - and this is a major academic, sophisticated organization - what percent recommended supplements to their patients. Guess the number.
Tana Amen: 10? 20?
Dr Mark Hyman: 70% of the Cleveland clinic doctors recommend supplements to their patients.
Tana Amen: Oh.
Dr Mark Hyman: Whether prenatals or vitamin D, or fish oil or B vitamin, whatever.
Tana Amen: Oh that's nice.
Dr Mark Hyman: It was like orthopedic surgeons, so it's like, I mean, it's not fear mongering. We know this data from other surveys. And 70% to 80% of doctors are recommending supplements, but they are sending people to CVS or wherever. They're not getting the kind of quality that you guys make or that's available with other professional brands.
Tana Amen: Right. Interesting. So that's interesting.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what do you think most people should take?
Dr Mark Hyman: Oh, well, I think clearly the major deficiencies are Omega-3s, magnesium, zinc, often iron, the B-vitamins like Foley, B-12, B-6. So those are you can get those if you take a multivitamin and mineral, a fish oil, a vitamin D, maybe a little extra magnesium. I think that's a bare minimum for most people. And I-
Tana Amen: And what about a probiotic?
Dr Mark Hyman: Yeah, I would add that in there. I mean, I think the probiotics research we're doing more and more research on that. But I think it's pretty exciting to see the advances in the microbiome that we're learning. And I think we're just sort of at the infancy, so I think we'll learn more and more.
Tana Amen: Yep. Those are my five go-tos too I like. Everyone sort of needs those basics.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right. When we come back we're going to talk about specific things you can do to fix your food, and help Dr. Hyman fix the food of America and beyond. Stay with us. If you are enjoying the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five-star rating, as that helps others find the podcast. If you're considering coming to Amen clinics, or trying some of the brain-healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at, or a 10% discount on all supplements at For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.