Biological influences on criminal behaviour

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6990.1332d (Published 20 May 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:1332
  1. J F Soothill
  1. Emeritus professor of immunology Axminster, Devon EX13 5RT

    EDITOR,—In his editorial on biological influences on criminal behaviour Joseph S Alper lists some examples of simply inherited metabolic defects that may be associated with criminal behaviour. He also casts doubt on the genetic interpretation of family studies of criminality (and does not point out that this is clearly an insensitive approach in view of the heterogeneity of criminality).1 He does not, however, mention food intolerance despite the widespread recognition that hyperactivity in children is often followed by criminality (this is acknowledged in the preceding editorial on preventing crime and violence2). The fact that many hyperactive children can be cured by diet has been established by two controlled trials, so if such treatment also prevented subsequent criminality this would provide more reason for optimism than the ones that Alper lists; more work on this is therefore needed.3 4

    The fathers of several of the patients I successfully treated with diet for this condition had criminal records and a similar history in childhood. One patient abandoned his diet in mid-teens and burnt his school down. I visited him in prison, when he said that he would like to try the diet again, but I do not think that this was achieved.

    I believe that this food intolerance is allergic and is likely to be familial but of complex inheritance. I have no idea how commonly it causes criminality, but it is important for those in whom it does.


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