Nutritional Deficiencies in Children that Cause Behavioral Problems

Nutritional Deficiencies in Children that Cause Behavioral Problems

Nutritional deficiencies in children are no laughing matter.  Did you know that they can cause behavioral problems from mild to very severe?



Most people have seen the impact of behavioral problems in children first hand. If you don’t have a child with these problems, you probably know someone who does. If nothing else, you’ve probably seen children misbehave in stores and have heard about behavioral and emotional challenges through the media.

It’s easy to write these issues off as the result of poor parenting or some type of personality disturbance within the child, but in many cases, these disturbances impact smart, active children who have engaged, emotionally healthy parents. While there are many other factors that may be at play, nutritional deficiencies in children are often involved. Your child doesn’t have to be deprived of food or fed an improper diet to suffer from a deficiency, so it’s important for all parents to know what to do if a deficiency is suspected.

Food Sensitivities vs. Nutritional deficiencies in children

Food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies can both cause behavioral problems in children, but they require different courses of treatment. A food sensitivity occurs when a child has a negative reaction to a food substance that they are eating often. In order to treat the problem, you need to work with a medical professional to determine the food not sitting well with your child and then remove it entirely from the child’s diet.

The most common foods to cause a behavioral change in children include:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Food dyes
  • Some preservatives
  • Caffeine
  • Artificial sweeteners

If a child has a nutritional deficiency, they aren’t receiving adequate amounts of a nutrient that is needed for the human body to function properly. Rather than removing a food from the child’s diet, you need to identify the deficiency and then find ways to increase consumption of foods rich in that mineral or vitamin. In many cases, multiple deficiencies exist together, so supplementation is needed at least in the short term. 

Sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies in children can lead to temper tantrums, erratic mood swings, violent outbursts, and cognitive disturbances that interfere with education. If your child experiences any of these problems, it’s worth asking your doctor to screen for deficiencies and/or refer you to a specialist to check for sensitivities or intolerance to foods.

Childhood Aggression & Nutritional deficiencies in children

Some official studies have uncovered a direct correlation between childhood nutritional deficiencies and aggressive behaviors. If these deficiencies continue over time, the risk of a child acting out in a violent manner is doubled by the age of 17.

Some of the nutrients believed to cause aggressive behavior include:

  • B vitamins
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Zinc

When you consider the critical bodily processes that most vitamins and minerals are responsible for controlling, you see how virtually any deficiency could lead to aggressive behavior or difficulties managing reactions to stress. The same deficiencies could cause a variety of additional problems, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

It’s difficult to test for all potential nutritional deficiencies, so you may need to work with an experienced medical professional if you strongly believe that this is a factor in your child’s aggressive outburst and/or other behavioral problems.

Autism, ADHD & Neurological Disorders in Children

A variety of nutritional deficiencies are believed to contribute to ADHD, autism, and many other disorders that impact the neurological system in some children. Some of the most convincing research points to magnesium deficiency, which often causes the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Body rocking
  • Teeth grinding
  • Excessive hiccups
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Limited attention span & concentration
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behaviors

Note that there are many other things that can cause all of these symptoms, including some psychological disorders that may have nothing to do with nutrition. Some parents have also found krill oil to reverse negative behavioral symptoms as well.

Many parents still believe that it’s worth checking for this deficiency when a child exhibits at least one or two of these symptoms, especially if other causes have been eliminated.

Who Is at Risk?

Don’t assume that your child cannot have a nutritional deficiency even if you feed him or her a healthy diet and limit their intake of junk food. Nutritional needs can vary between children, and a nutrient-dense diet can still fall short of those needs in some cases. Your child may also have other health factors that make him or her more vulnerable to deficiencies, so it’s important to comply with all testing that your pediatrician or another medical professional may recommend.

Related Articles:

Return to the Oil Health Supplements Home Page

Nutritional Can Cause Behavioral Problems in Kids