We have talked before about the link between nutrition and violence.
The evidence has continued to mount and I was pleased to see that the Wellcome Trust is funding trials in three British prisons to investigate the link between nutrition and behavior. This is a placebo study that will examine which nutrients are most important and at what dosage.
Volunteers from three young offenders institutions housing male prisoners aged 16 to 21 will take nutritional supplements in addition to their normal choice of food to ensure they receive the necessary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to meet daily guidelines. The investigators will monitor how levels of nutrients affect a range of behaviors including violence, drug-related offences and incidents of self-harm.
The new trials build on previous research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry that was conducted at the then maximum security Young Offenders Institution in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. That study was funded by Natural Justice, a research charity that investigates the social and physical causes of offending behavior. Nutritional supplements - 2 grams per day of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for three months - were given to ensure that inmates' diets reached recommended UK dietary standards. The researchers found that the prisoners who consumed the active nutrient capsule committed on average 26% fewer disciplinary offenses overall than those taking the placebo and 37% fewer violent offenses.
The most likely reason why supplements can have such a large effect is because the proper functioning of nerve cell membranes and signaling molecules depends upon adequate amounts of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids in the diet.
This is extremely important work. Clearly nutrition is not the only driver of violence but it has been wondered for a long time whether the industrialization of our diets has contributed to the enormous rise in violent crime between the 1950s and 1970s.
“Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”
Isaac Asimov (Russian-born American Biochemist and Writer, 1920-1992)
“Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.”
--The Bible (Proverbs 10:6)
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet and Essayist, 1803-1882)