Diet deficiencies in general and the "junk food syndrome" in particular may be in part to blame for a variety of antisocial behavior ranging from youthful hyperactivity to adult crime, a diet researcher says.

In fact, much of the behavior that social workers and law enforcement officers commonly ascribe to background, culture and race may be outgrowths of poor eating habits, says Alexander G. Schauss, director of the American Institute for Biosocial Research in Tacoma.

Something as simple as a dietary deficiency of zinc may cause a teenager to desire salt and sugar and reduce his taste for vegetables. That could lead to aggression, making him irritable and unnecessarily sensitive to criticism, Schauss says.

Nourishment deficiencies also can produce unhealthy desires for alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and drugs, he said.

"Food can directly affect particular behavior patterns," he said.

Schauss believes that it is no coincidence that the increase in the juvenile crime rate in the last 35 years is proportionate to the increase in America's processed and refined foods.

A typical pregnant woman, he notes, eats as much as eight pounds of additives which can affect a fetus' nervous system.

Researchers have found that readjustments of diets can not only control weight problems but can control many allergies and bring about "total metamorphosis" of personalities, he said.

For example, a man who often beat his wife agreed to undergo nutritional testing and was cured after it was found he was suffering from subtle poisoning by such industrial metals as lead, mercury and cadmium.

And 16 men identified as chronic incest offenders were victims of folic acid and deficiencies in needed minerals and vitamins, including vitamin B-1, which helps to inhibit emotions, he said.

Counselors may be relying too much on theories of background, culture and race in trying to identify causes of crime and misbehavior, he said.