Nutritional Criminology: Why the Emerging Research on Ultra-Processed Food Matters to Health and Justice

Susan L. Prescott, Alan C. Logan, Christopher R. D’Adamo, Kathleen F. Holton, Christopher A. Lowry, John Marks, Rob Moodie, Blake Poland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is mounting concern over the potential harms associated with ultra-processed foods, including poor mental health and antisocial behavior. Cutting-edge research provides an enhanced understanding of biophysiological mechanisms, including microbiome pathways, and invites a historical reexamination of earlier work that investigated the relationship between nutrition and criminal behavior. Here, in this perspective article, we explore how this emergent research casts new light and greater significance on previous key observations. Despite expanding interest in the field dubbed ‘nutritional psychiatry’, there has been relatively little attention paid to its relevancy within criminology and the criminal justice system. Since public health practitioners, allied mental health professionals, and policymakers play key roles throughout criminal justice systems, a holistic perspective on both historical and emergent research is critical. While there are many questions to be resolved, the available evidence suggests that nutrition might be an underappreciated factor in prevention and treatment along the criminal justice spectrum. The intersection of nutrition and biopsychosocial health requires transdisciplinary discussions of power structures, industry influence, and marketing issues associated with widespread food and social inequalities. Some of these discussions are already occurring under the banner of ‘food crime’. Given the vast societal implications, it is our contention that the subject of nutrition in the multidisciplinary field of criminology—referred to here as nutritional criminology—deserves increased scrutiny. Through combining historical findings and cutting-edge research, we aim to increase awareness of this topic among the broad readership of the journal, with the hopes of generating new hypotheses and collaborations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Nutritional Criminology: Why the Emerging Research on Ultra-Processed Food Matters to Health and Justice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this