Vol. 6, No. 2, 2000 Page 3&6

School study: Supplementation decreases delinquent behaviors, raises IQ

Improving vulnerable children’s nutritional status can dramatically increase their IQ scores and reduce their risk of delinquency, according to new research by Stephen Schoenthaler and colleagues.

Last year (see related article, Crime Times, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 1, Pages 5 & 6), Schoenthaler et al. analyzed the findings of 13 studies testing the effects of vitamin/mineral supplementation on IQ. The researchers reported that the studies found that children receiving supplements “performed better, on average, than placebo in nonver rbal IQ, regardless of formula, location, age, race, gender, or research team composition.” This February, they released two new studies-one measuring IQ changes in schoolchildren given vitamin-mineral supplements, and the other measuring changes in delin nquency among the same group of children.

Schoenthaler et al. studied working-class children in two primarily Hispanic elementary schools in Phoenix, Arizona. One study focused on 80 of the children who had been formally disciplined for violating school rules during the school year. Half of these e children received daily vitamin-mineral supplementation (at 50 percent of the US RDA) for four months, while the other half received a placebo.

During the study period, the researchers report, the children taking the supplements exhibited a 47 percent lower mean rate of antisocial behavior than the children who received placebos. The drop in disciplinary actions among supplement t-takers was due largely to a marked decrease in infractions by children who were habitual offenders before entering the study. Only one subject taking the active supplements committed more than two violations during the study, as compared to nine of the placebo-group subjects.

These findings, the researchers say, are comparable to previous studies by Schoenthaler et al. showing 28 percent to 47 percent decreases in disciplinary actions in incarcerated children or adults receiving vitamin-mineral supplementation. These studies, too, revealed that most of the change was explained by the reduced infractions of a minority of “hard core” rule-breakers.

“These data do not imply that human behavior is not largely a learned phenomenon,” the researchers say. “….However, for a minority of children, neither rewards nor official sanctions produces conformity. This [study] provides evidence that for this minori ity, undiagnosed and untreated malnutrition may be impairing their brain function to such an extent that normal learning from discipline does not occur.”

One explanation for that failure to learn may be reduced IQ. Studying 245 children in the same Phoenix elementary school population, the researchers again gave half vitamin-mineral supplements and the other half placebos. They found a significant differe ence of 2.5 nonverbal IQ points between children taking active supplements for three months, and those taking placebos. Moreover, they note that this overall gain was due almost entirely to 24 children who exhibited an average 16-point higher net gain in IQ scores than matched placebo controls.

“In order to place this magnitude in social perspective,” they note, “a typical high school graduate who enters a vocational trade school has an average IQ of 100 while the typical college graduate who is successful in graduate school has an IQ of 115.”

Schoenthaler et al. remark that while the public tends to focus on social problems and funding shortfalls as causes of student failure, the influence of nutrition should not be overlooked. On a practical level, they say, “just as students who have difficu ulty reading are routinely referred to an optometrist for a vision examination, schools should consider making similar referrals for children with poor academic performance to a physician skilled in nutritional assessment, counseling, and correction.”

Commenting on the studies, National Institutes of Health researcher Wendy Smith notes that the researchers “used a sophisticated sampling procedure and analysis in an attempt to control for the effect of possible extraneous variables,” in addition to usin ng well-selected assessment tools and a “blind” design. She recommends large crossover studies on the effects of nutrition, as well as research into the effects of individual nutrients.


“The effect of vitamin-mineral supplementation on juvenile delinquency among American schoolchildren: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial,” Stephen J. Schoenthaler and Ian D. Bier, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. . 6, No. 1, February 2000, pp. 7-17, and, “The effect of vitamin-mineral supplementation on the intelligence of American school children: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial,” Stephen J. Schoenthaler, Ian D. Bier, Kelly Young, Dennis Nichols, and Susan Jansenns, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 1, February 2000, pp. 19-29. Address for both: Stephen J. Schoenthaler, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, California State University, Stanislaus, 801 W. . Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, CA 95380.


“Commentary on Schoenthaler et al.: Vitamin and mineral supplements-is the methodology sufficient to support the conclusions?” Wendy B. Smith, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 6, No. 1, February 2000, pp. 31-35. Address: Wend dy B. Smith, DCPR-NIAAA, National Institutes of Health, 6000 Executive Blvd., Suite 505, Bethesda, MD 20892-7003.

Related Article: [2000, Vol. 6] [2000, Vol. 6] [2002, Vol. 8] [2002, Vol. 8] [2004, Vol. 10]

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