Saturday, March 3

Are nutritional deficiencies causing violent behaviour?

A study in a high-security prison for young offenders in the UK shows that violent behaviour may be attributable at least in part to nutritional deficiencies.

 ...the number of violent offences they committed fell by 37%
The UK prison trial at Aylesbury jail showed that when prisoners were put on a healthy diet consisting of multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences they committed fell by 37%. Once the trial had finished and the prisoners were off the healthy diet, the number of offences went up by the same amount.

 Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD, acting chief, Section on Nutritional Neurosciences at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, said that the results of this trial are not a miracle, but simply what you might predict if you understand the biochemistry of the brain and the biophysics of the brain cell membrane. His hypothesis is that modern industrialised diets may be changing the very architecture and functioning of the brain.

Hibbeln explained that over the last century most western countries have undergone a dramatic shift in the composition of their diets. The omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to the brain have been flooded out by omega-6 fatty acids, mainly from industrial oils - soya, corn, sunflower. For an example, in 1909 soya oil made up only 0.02% of all calories available in that year, but by 2000 it was up to 20%.
For the most part, these omega-6 fatty acids come from industrial frying for takeaways, ready meals, margarine and snack foods such as crisps, chips, ice-creams and biscuits.What makes the situation even worse is alcohol consumption. Alcohol uses up omega-3s in the brain.

As the consumption of omega-6 goes up, so do homicides...
Joseph R. Hibbeln and his colleagues have mapped the growth in consumption of omega-6 fatty acids from seed oils in 38 countries since the 1960s against the rise in murder rates over the same period and in all cases there is disquieting match. As the consumption of omega-6 goes up, so do homicides in a linear progression. The countries like Japan where omega-3 consumption has remained high (because people in those countries eat a lot of fish), have lower rates of murder and depression.

As many other things besides the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids have changed in the last century, this study doesn't prove that high omega-6 and low omega-3 fat consumption
causes violence, but I do think that at least in part violent behaviour can be attributable to nutritional deficiencies. Also, I advise everyone to add more fish and seafood to their diet.

And now, last but not least, let's take a look at the diet of one young offender (sentenced by the British courts on 13 occasions for stealing trucks).

Bernard Gesch, a senior research scientist in the Department of Physiology, University of Oxford, recorded the boy's daily diet as follows:
  • Breakfast: nothing (asleep)
  • Mid morning: nothing (asleep)
  • Lunchtime: 4 or 5 cups of coffee with milk and 2½ heaped teaspoons of sugar
  • Mid afternoon: 3 or 4 cups of coffee with milk and 2½ heaped sugars
  • Tea: chips, egg, ketchup, 2 slices of white bread, 5 cups of tea or coffee with milk and sugar
  • Evening: 5 cups of tea or coffee with milk and sugar, 20 cigarettes, £2 worth of sweets, cakes and if money available 3 or 4 pints of beer.


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1 comment:

Vague Raconteur said...

I guess this shows some pretty valid evidence as to why we might be more aggressive sometimes, although the boy may simply be an exception, and his bad diet irrelevant.