Crime and NutritionFebruary 25, 2010 Written by JP [Font too small?]
At the moment there is a budget crisis in my home state of California. As a consequence, local politicians are scrambling to find the least objectionable ways to make ends meet without endangering future bids for re-election. I have a suggestion for any elected official who’s genuinely interested in cutting costs and improving the quality of life of their constituents: Start by changing your diet and lifestyle and then help others to do the same.
Two of the biggest causes of budgetary woes are health care spending and costs associated with incarcerating criminals. Large scale changes in diet and supplementation would almost certainly reduce expenditures needed to deal with both of these pressing issues. I’ll step right up to the plate and tell you that I believe that specific changes in what people eat and how they take care of themselves would reduce crime, hospital visits, prescription medication use and improve virtually every aspect of life that is meaningful to the human experience. I mean that literally. Change your lifestyle and you will likely find a dramatic improvement in almost every department of your life.
A study presented in the February edition of the journal Aggressive Behavior reports that supplements can help reduce violent acts in young adult prisoners. 221 criminal offenders were provided with either a placebo or a combination of essential fatty acids (omega-3s and omega-6s), minerals and vitamins over the course of 1-3 months. The prisoners who received the nutritional supplements demonstrated a 34% reduction in violent episodes. Those given the placebo exhibited a 14% increase in aggressive incidents. Another trial involving over 1,000 British prisoners is currently underway. The 3 year study is sponsored by the U.K.’s Welcome Trust and budgeted at over $2.3 million. The testing will include “blood chemistry analysis and a battery of computer-based behavioral and cognitive tests”, and should provide the clearest evidence yet about the role that diet and supplementation have in augmenting antisocial choices. (1,2)
A previous examination from 2002 found that similar supplementation brought about a 35% decline in disciplinary offenses. In addition, a trial published in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that “low dose vitamin-mineral tablets” prompted a 47% lower rate of antisocial behavior in a sampling of 468 schoolchildren. The placebo controlled study revealed several key areas in which the supplemented students differed from those receiving placebos: acts of disrespect, defiance, disorderly conduct, endangering others, fighting, obscenity use, refusal to do school work and vandalism. The authors of the latter study concluded that, “Poor nutritional habits in children that lead to low concentrations of water-soluble vitamins in blood, impair brain function and subsequently cause violence and other serious antisocial behavior. Correction of nutrient intake, either through a well-balanced diet or low-dose vitamin-mineral supplementation, corrects the low concentrations of vitamins in blood, improves brain function and subsequently lowers institutional violence and antisocial behavior by almost half”. (3,4)
Supplements are only one part of the picture when it comes to revolutionizing individual and societal health. The most significant dietary change communities can collectively make is to lower the intake of processed foods and sugar. I know you’ve probably read this type of suggestion quite often. However science truly does support a link between junk food consumption and destructive behavior. The scope of the damage extends even beyond how our actions affect others. The way we treat ourselves also impacts the way others react to us.
- The October 2009 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry describes an interesting study that followed the lives of children beginning at the age of 5. Dietary records were collected in a group of 5 year old children. The same type of food questionnaires were administered when the kids were 10 years old. After that point, the researchers stayed in touch with the youthful participants and monitored the relative incidence of violent acts that resulted in convictions. A careful examination of childhood eating habits and violent episodes revealed that “Children who ate confectionaries daily at age 10 years were significantly more likely to have been convicted for violence at age 34 years, a relationship that was robust when controlling for ecological and individual factors”. (5)
- A review from March 2007 looked at several studies relating to diet and anti-social, criminal and violent behavior. It was determined that: a) “five well-designed studies found that elimination diets reduced hyperactivity related symptoms”; b) supplementing with essential (poly-unsaturated) fatty acids decreased violent acts by 39%; c) multivitamin/minerals were associated with a reduction in anti-social behavior and; d) low blood sugar, which can be caused by blood glucose fluctuations prompted by eating high-glycemic foods, were linked to increased aggression. (6)
- A Japanese survey from February 2008 adds another dimension to the diet/lifestyle/behavior connection. “A cross-sectional, cross-national survey of 9 countries” determined that students who mistreated themselves via alcohol abuse, risky sexual activity and smoking were more likely of “being frequently bullied”. Conversely, eating well, practicing good hygiene and staying physically fit reduced the odds of being bullied and suffering from related injury and violence. (7)
I don’t believe that a healthy diet and lifestyle alone will convert this world into a utopia. Nor am I claiming that all prisoners will transform into law abiding, peaceful, pillars of society if they’d only have the right foods and supplements at their disposal. What I am proposing is that optimal nutrition and taking proper care of ourselves can change the way we feel and perceive the world. This can make an enormous difference in the decisions we make and paths we choose in life. The change that I’d like to see can happen on a case by case basis. It’ll require the assistance of community leaders, concerned individuals, parents, politicians and even prison guards. Start by setting an example for what you’d like to see in others. Be someone that your colleagues, family, friends and neighbors will want to emulate. Then take it one step further and spread the word. One day you may find that even the most unlikely of sources, such as big-wig politicians, may be ready to hear your message. If nothing else, the idea of saving money and their jobs could bring about a whole host of side benefits for us all.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Fish Oil, Minerals, Vitamins
Posted in Food and Drink, Mental Health, Nutrition