New research linking eating too many sweets as a child with violent behaviour in later life was today dismissed as “non-sensical” by a nutrition expert.
University of Ulster professor Rob Welch, however, said a new study examining the long-term effects of childhood diet on agressive behaviour at an older age did show “an interesting possible relationship” which needed further research.
The research, out today, is the first such study to look at the relationship between a child’s food consumption and violent behaviour in later life.
Analysis of almost 17,500 people in the 1970 British Cohort Study found that 10-year-olds who ate confectionery daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence between the ages of 29 and 34.
Mr Welch, a professor of food science and nutrition, urged parents not to read too much into the study. He said the research, which is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed an “interesting possible relationship” but warned blaming sweets as the sole reason why someone would become violent would be “non-sensical”.
“I would suggest there are a lot more factors involved in whether people become violent in adulthood other than consuming sweets and to try and blame it all on the sweets is, frankly, non-sensical. This study has shown an interesting association but needs further investigation,” he said.
The study, which was conducted by researchers from Cardiff University, found that 69% of the participants who were violent between the ages of 29 and 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.
Lead researcher Dr Simon Moore said: “Our favoured explanation is 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.”
And while the authors of the study have said the association between confectionery consumption and violent behaviour needs further attention, local mum Chantel McCaughley says she is still alarmed by the results.
The beautician from the Andersonstown area has two children and only allows them sweets once a week.
“Of course I find it alarming. I only let my kids have sweets once a week because I do notice a difference in them,” she said.
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