Science is learning more and more about nutrition, knowledge that may someday lead to treatments we cannot imagine now. One idea being investigated is if nutritional supplementation can affect behavior. As you read this, there’s a groundbreaking research project underway in England and Scotland involving young offenders in three prisons who have volunteered to be given such supplements to see if their behavior can be improved.
Neuroscientist John Stein of the University of Oxford spearheads the study, working with young offenders who have been convicted of crimes of violence and were thus serving long prison sentences. He has a theory that the micronutrients found as a natural part of fatty acids (like those in omega 3 fish oils) help nerve cell membranes and signaling molecules in the brain work better, particularly with regard to how we deal with visual and social signals. Without the enough of the micronutrients the brain can react badly, acting on impulse or with aggression.
Professor Stein is supported by his brother, celebrity chef Rick, who is passionate about fish and the many benefits it has for our health. Experts know it is good for the brain, the heart as well as the prevention of disease. Fish is a healthy alternative to lean meats that is a natural source of not only the amazing omega 3 fatty acids, but also a source of important vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin B2, vitamin D), minerals (iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, selenium) and protein.
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Reduce Negative Behaviour With Supplementation Continued…
For the study, funded by the Wellcome Trust (the UK’s largest medical research charity) and conducted by researchers at Oxford University, the volunteers (aged 16 to 21) will take four capsules each day when they are eating their main meal of the day. Half with get micronutrients and half a placebo capsule, the study being conducted under double blind conditions. Over the next four months, the disciplinary records of the two groups will be monitored for behaviors like drug related offenses, violence and incidents of harming the self.
This latest work is the next logical step following a smaller study from 2002 at Aylesbury Young Offenders Institute that found that prisoners who got such supplements actually committed one third fewer offenses. Professor Stein believes the trial will be a success and that we might come away with guidelines for our mental health. The team hopes to see which nutrients are most helpful, and at what dosages.
If you think about the central premise of the nutrient and behavior theory it makes perfect sense. Improving what people are eating could very well help them act more socially as well as doing great things for their own health and well-being. Hunger and deficiency are not the best building blocks, after all. Stein is not claiming that nutrition, or deficiencies, explain the whole bad behavior puzzle, but rather that experts may have seriously underestimated the role it does play. If the theory holds, the solution may be simple, and risk free – a win/win for the individual and society at large.
To your good health,