Diet and Aggression

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Many risk factors for violent behavior and aggression exist for adults and youth in today’s society. Some of these can include depression, abuse, or history of violence in the family. But aside from these risk factors, there may be other factors that are associated with aggression in individuals. A recent study has shown that a certain diet is associated with aggressive behavior. This certain diet is that of consuming a large amount of dietary trans fatty acids (dTFAs).

Trans fatty acids are caused by hydrogenation, which is a process that results in unsaturated oils turning solid at room temperature. Many foods contain high levels of these trans fatty acids, such as fast food, margarine and other spreads, and packaged foods, such as Bisquick and cake mixes. Even though there has already been evidence for negative health effects of dTFAs, such as increased risk of heart disease, this is the first study to show evidence linking dTFAs with a negative behavior that affects other people.

This study was based on a survey of 945 people, and performed at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. In the survey, the researchers conducted assessments on dietary behavior, and also performed behavior assessments that included questions on the participants’ life histories of aggression, how they managed conflicts, their self-rated irritability and impatience levels, and a score on an “overt aggression” scale. They found that higher trans fat intake was significantly associated with aggression, and this finding remained even after adjusting for sex, ethnicity, and age.

If it is proven that this relationship is causal, then this gives more reason for people not to consume a high trans fat diet, aside from the already proven negative health effects. On a public health policy level, restaurants, schools, and food producers can reduce the amounts of the dTFAs in their foods, and potentially reduce the amount of aggressive behavior among youth and adults.

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Attribution for fast food picture: Christian Cable from Lancaster at