Prisoners given supplements in new trial

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food supplements, Nutrition

An Oxford University study being conducted in three UK prisons is investigating the link between nutrition and behaviour.

It follows a 2002 UK trial that found consumption of food supplements could reduce anti-social behaviour in teenagers as well as 30 years inquiry into the subject by one of the lead researchers, professor Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN, senior director of natural and medicinal products research at natural products consultancy, AIBMR Life Sciences.

Schauss noted more than 20 controlled clinical trials carried out in state and county juvenile and adult institutions confirmed that diet could be used to reduce the incidence of antisocial behavior by up to 60 percent.

The new study, one of the largest ever conducted, is being funded by a $2.6m (€1.83m) grant from the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity.

Behaviour modification

The study aims to find out if nutrient levels required for optimum brain function are also responsible for behaviour modification.

Similar studies carried out in the US and Europe have determined the link between nutrition and behaviour.

"Seeing the level of research on diet and crime reach this level of financial support by the medical community is heartening,”​ said Schauss.

“But it took over 30 years, even though the evidence was there back in the 1970s."

The director of the Wellcome Trust stated: "If this study shows nutritional supplementation affects behaviour, it could have profound significance for nutrition guidelines not only within the criminal justice system, but in the wider community, in schools, for example​. We are all used to nutritional guidelines for our physical health, but this study could lead to revisions taking into account our mental health, as well."

The researchers will investigate the affect of different food supplements on behaviour compared to groups on placebo.

"It is my hope that we see better nutrition education and start with pre-conceptual care programs that focus on nutrition and other lifestyle factors and behaviors that can decrease the risk of antisocial behavior,"​ Schauss said.

Schauss is the author of a book called Diet, Crime and Delinquency, ​written in 1978 and which posited the idea that diet and behaviour were closely linked.

The study is being conducted in conjunction with the Institute of Psychiatry at Imperial College, University of London, the University of Surrey, the University of Liverpool and the Medical Research Council on Human Nutrition Research.

The 2002 study gave essential fatty acid supplements to 18-21-year-old prisoners and found antisocial behaviour was reduced by 37 per cent compared to placebo.

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