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Eating sweets every day in childhood ‘increases adult aggression’

01 October 2009

Children who eat sweets and chocolate every day are more likely to be violent as adults, according to new research.

A study of almost 17,500 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study found that 10-year-olds who ate confectionary daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 years.

The study, published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, is the first to examine the long-term effects of childhood diet on adult violence.

Researchers from Cardiff University found that 69 per cent of the participants who were violent at the age of 34 had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during childhood, compared to 42% who were non-violent.

This link between confectionary consumption and violence remained after controlling for other factors.

The researchers put forward several explanations for the link. 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."

The researchers concluded: "This association between confectionary consumption and violence needs further attention. Targeting resources at improving children’s diet may improve health and reduce aggression."

Reference:

Moore SC, Carter LM and van Goozen SHM (2009) Confectionary consumption in childhood and adult violence, British Journal of Psychiatry, 195: 366-367

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk

Dr Simon Moore,

School of Dentistry

Cardiff University.

Tel 07540 825513.

Email: mooresc2@cardiff.ac.uk

Stephen Rouse,

Public Relations Office,

Cardiff University.

029 2087 5596

e-mail: RouseS@cardiff.ac.uk