Crime and micro nutrients

Many people working in the field of nutrition must have been puzzled recently by apparently conflicting press reports of an important study in Aylesbury Young Offenders Institution which showed significant reductions in anti-social behavior, following provision of dietary supplements of vitamins and minerals.

Violent offences fell by almost 40% among those who took nutritional supplements, but there was no significant change among those who took a carefully matched placebo.

Similar headline reports of this work were given wide publicity in most national newspapers. The findings were published in the British Journal of Psychiatry and were seen as an important breakthrough in the currently fruitless war against crime, not only in prisons but even, perhaps, among the general population.

Yet within a week or so wide press publicity was given to an apparently contradictory study of anti-oxidants on coronary heart disease, cancer, and other chronic disorders. It was stated inbanner headlines that ‘Vitamin pills are a waste of time and money’. Most nutritionalists will be familiar with such views from the conventionally minded So, what is the truth?

In fact, both views may be correct, but they are simply not comparable. (Actually, the conclusions drawn by the authors of the negative anti-oxidant study are at variance with many more positive reports in the medical literature).

In the anti-oxidant study, a connection was sought between dietary levels of three anti-oxidant vitamins (E, C, and â-carotene) and the incidence ofcoronary heart disease etc. No connections were found. And, what is more to the point, no behavioural studies were reported.

On the other hand, the Aylesbury study was concerned exclusively with the effects of diet on behaviour in a prison environment. Moreover, only the three anti-oxidants noted above were studied, whereas over fifteen micro nutrients were used at Aylesbury. It is clear that the negative results from the anti-oxidant project were irrelevant to the strongly positive findings at Aylesbury.

The key findings from the Aylesbury study were that young criminals in jail behave better and commit significantly fewer offences, includingviolence, when their diet is moderately supplemented with essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. The effects were found in prisoners who showed no signs or symptoms of malnutrition.

A major aspect of the Aylesbury study is the meticulous attention paid to statistical analysis of the results.Professor Copas, the Home Office’s statistical reviewer, stated as follows: ‘This is the only trial I have ever been involved with from the social sciences which is designed properly and witha good analysis’

Follow-up studies are being planned, but it is already evident that the authors of the Aylesbury work may have identified one of the most important yet neglected factors inhuman affairs.

Thus the findings at Aylesbury would appear to have far-reaching implications. Behaviour covers a wide range of human activities beyond crime. This includes education, mental health, economics, politics and the administration of public affairs: and even the perennial philosophical problems of good and evil, right and wrong. You can’t get much more fundamental than that!

Nothing in this review should be taken to suggest that faulty nutrition acts on its own. Social and genetic factors would have to be considered in any broader review of behavioural phenomena. It is the past neglect of these to which the Aylesbury findings so compellingly draw attention.

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With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...