Introduction

The effects of diet on behavior have long been a topic of folklore, superstition, and popular mythology and more recently the subject of rigorous, and not so rigorous, scientific study. Most research into dietary effects on human behavior has assessed changes in mood or mental function after eating (or drinking) or after fasting. Typical measures of mental function include reaction time, attention, memory, problem solving, and intelligence. In addition, research has addressed the effects of diet on disturbed behavior, including attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, antisocial behavior and aggression, mental illness - for example depression - and dementia (Table 1).

Clearly, chronic malnutrition can seriously affect behavior by impairing brain development, and acute malnutrition may result in insufficient nutrients being available for optimal cognitive function. However, this article concentrates on dietary effects on behavior that are not the result of chronic malnutrition or of pharmacologically active ingredients of the diet such as alcohol or caffeine. Rather, the behaviors arise from more subtle effects of variation in nutrient intake within the normally nourished population.

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