Trials will soon be underway in three UK prisons to investigate the link between nutrition and behaviour. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the study will look at which nutrients are most important and at what dosage.
In the study, volunteers from three young offenders institutions housing male prisoners aged 16 to 21 will take nutritional supplements on top of their normal choice of food to ensure they receive the necessary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids to meet daily guidelines. The results will be compared with a control group under double blind conditions. Researchers will monitor how levels of nutrients affect a range of behaviours including violence, drug-related offences and incidents of self-harm.
The new trials build on previous research carried out at the then maximum security HM Young Offenders Institution Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, funded by Natural Justice, a research charity that investigates the social and physical causes of offending behaviour. In that study, nutritional supplements 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 offences overall than those taking the placebo and 37% fewer violent offences
Our initial findings indicated that improving what people eat could lead them to behave more sociably as well as improving their health, said Professor Stein. "This is not an area currently considered in standards of dietary adequacy and little is currently known about optimum nutrient dosages required for brain function or behaviour. We are not saying that nutrition is the only influence on behaviour but we seem to have seriously underestimated its importance."
The new study will be led by Professor John Stein at the University of Oxford and Natural Justice. Professor Stein and colleagues believe that the reason why supplements can hav
|Contact: Craig Brierley|