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December 27, 1985

Scientists ponder diet's behavioral effects

JAMA. 1985;254(24):3407-3408. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360240017003

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How "what you eat may affect the way you act" was the theme of a conference convened by the American Medical Association, the International Life Sciences Institute, and the Nutrition Foundation. "Diet and Behavior: A Multidisciplinary Evaluation" attracted a group of about 275 scientists, who discussed the effects of diet and nutrients on such behaviors as sleep, cognitive functioning, criminality, and hyperactivity.

At the same time that speakers expressed caveats about prematurely manipulating the diet to correct aberrant behavior, they appeared to agree that at least certain foods can indeed influence certain behaviors. And, as their testimony indicates, dietary pharmacology is no longer at the fringe of medicine.

According to Robin B. Kanarek, PhD, associate professor of psychology, Tufts University School of Nutrition, Medford, Mass, "ideas and beliefs about a causative role for diet and behavior have existed for literally thousands of years." She notes that therapeutic uses for food