Tragically, at this point, it seems like at least once a month now, there’s some kind of mass shooting in America.

Everyone’s got theories as to how these violent acts could have been prevented. The most common debates, at least on my FB feed, center around gun control and increased access to mental health treatment. Yes, and yes, to both. But how about the strong link between nutritional deficiencies and violent behavior?

We have become a fast-food culture. And we are collectively suffering the effects. Fortunately, the impact of junk food on emotional health is starting to become mainstream news. Here are a few examples:

  • The American Journal of Psychiatry has published a study indicating that kids deficient in zinc, iron and B vitamins demonstrated a 41% increase in aggression at age 8 and a 51% increase in violent and antisocial behaviors by age 17.
  • A Japanese university surveyed 270 adolescent “delinquents” and found that, compared to their peers, they were 25% more likely to consume junk food, and three times more likely to skip breakfast.
  • The National Institute of Health discovered that an additive found in many fast foods may trigger violence and depression.
  • A study from the University of Vermont found that teens who drank more soda were more likely to be violent than their peers who consumed little to no soda.
  • A UK prison study found that when inmates’ diets were supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and multivitamins, the number of violent offenses they committed while in prison dropped by 37%.
  • Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, has identified that children can display violent and aggressive behaviors as a result of food intolerances or allergies (which in turn result from an impaired digestive system).

It makes sense. You may have seen it in your own life: as you eat cleaner, healthier food, you begin to feel better, both physically and emotionally.

Conversely, when you eat junk, you feel sluggish and irritable. That’s because when you eat junk, you are depriving your brain of the nutrients it requires to execute its necessary functions, such as making neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that carry messages throughout our body). Quite literally, your brain is not working right.

The good news is that by improving your diet, you can significantly improve your brain function. I’ve done it myself! There’s a whole world out there of fresh, local, organic and delicious meats, veggies, and grains. Start exploring, and reap the benefits.

Even being around food growing in its natural state is healing. Have you ever visited a farm, picked apples, or planted a garden? You can’t help but feel calm and relaxed when you’re in the presence of the natural world. Without a doubt, nature has a soothing effect on the mind.

It’s a vicious cycle: people eat junk food when they’re in emotional pain, and the junk food creates emotional pain, which prompts more eating of junk food. I do know that the Standard American Diet is causing thousands of Americans to feel depressed, irritable, and in some cases, outright belligerent. If this concept makes sense to you, please consider forwarding this blog post to your family, friends, and coworkers who you think might need to learn about the link between junk food and mental health.