Crime and Nutrition
Tjarko Holtjer, a friend in the Netherlands who runs a well fed multilingual website about health freedom, nutrition issues and more, has sent an article which I would like to pass on.
Criminal behaviour and violence depend very much on nutrition. Some vitamins or essential minerals - if out of balance - can make the difference between a sane fellow and a violent criminal.
Same thing at school - nutrition and ability to learn are closely related. The kid getting hooked on Ritalin as a "treatment" for ADHD might just be out of vital nutrients from having too much sugar and sweets to eat. Refined sugar - the white kind - is a strong robber of nutrients and might leave kids stranded in more ways than one. Teeth and learning ability both go to hell, not to talk about attention.
And then there's fish. Some of us remember cod liver oil as a source of nutrition, together with molasses, the stuff that's left over when sugar gets refined. Cod liver oil is full of omega 3 fatty acids and black strap molasses contain all the plant based minerals that have been processed by the sugar cane. We are really thorough in removing any trace of these vital minerals from the final product we put in our tea or coffee.
No wonder then, that things seem to get more and more difficult.
Food for your mind
Compiled by: Tjarko Holtjer
Prisoners change their fried potatoes for food with a lot of vitamins and change within ten months into kind boys. Fat fish keeps you away from depression and senility.
"You are mad." Criminologist Stephen J. Schoenthaler heard that said to him when he wanted to investigate whether the behaviour of prisoners would change if their menu would be adapted. Schoenthaler was fascinated by three statistical curves: The number of cases of gratuitous violence, the sales of the fast food industry and sugar consumption. All three were mountain-high upwards. The 'feeling in his stomach' and his mother-in-law told him there could be a connection between those three.
Despite criticism from Colleagues - he went ahead. He found a loyal director of a large jail in Virginia. Within some weeks they put together an elaborate survey. At first the prisoners would eat white bread, hamburgers, sausages, fried potatoes, iceberg lettuce, cookies, milk shakes, sweet snacks and soft drinks. After that the prisoners would be given a diet with whole-meal bread, patatoes, meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, without fried snacks and sugar. After that there would be a period of six months of traditional prison-meals.
The results were astonishing. In the patatoes-vegetables-meat phase their anti-social behaviour dropped, and after re-introduction of hot dogs and cookies returned fully. The news was spread and Schoenthaler became a well-known guest at prisons. In ten years he put 8076 delinquents onto food experiments. The stopping of sugar as well as the jacking up of vitamins and minerals led to a decrease of the number of contraventions, physical and verbal violence, escape and suicide attempts and towards a better mood. Old offenders did 86% less tricks, drug addicts 72%. Some prisons decided to go on, the way Schoenthaler had started them out. But afterwards most of them returned to Coca-Cola and McDonalds food again.
Schoenthaler kept curious about his subject. He asked himself whether recalcitrant school kids could be influenced with food. To get more clarity he started a study of 6 - 12 year old pupils of a school in Phoenix, Arizona - in 1999. This school registered the behaviour of the children every day. Because the children did not eat at school but with their parents, he started to work with food supplements. During four months the children got a vitamin pill or a placebo. The effect of the vitamins - only half the daily recommended dosage - was enormous. The amount of disciplinary measures against 40 mischief makers, with vitamin pill, was lowered by almost 50%. The children behaved less aggressive, less destructive, had more respect for their teachers, became more cooperative and could concentrate better. As a side effect, their achievements improved. The IQ of the children getting the food supplements was slightly increased (also true for the quiet children.)
"It is bad to think that incomplete food will only have effects on our physical functioning," says doctor Melvin Werbach, who did many studies on the relationship between food and behaviour. "The brain is also an organ - just like for example the kidneys, the eyes and the heart, it is sensitive to a shortage of food substances. With brain scans a relationship was found between the amount of magnesium in the blood and the functioning of that part of the brain where morals, conscience and impulse control are located. Schoenthaler and his colleagues showed us that bringing those substances to a certain level in the blood can lead to improvement of behaviour."
Most doctors think that it is impossible to get too little vitamins and minerals into your body in our Western world, even with its wrong food habits. But the consumption of vegetables and fruit is still diwntrending. Fried patatoes, hamburgers, milkshakes, chips and cola are in place of traditional food. Welbach: "A clearly visible consequence from that derailment is that we grow fatter and fatter and we suffer from diabetes and osteoporosis at 30. Another disaster is happening between our ears. We become depressed, agressive or get ADHD. Most of the children in Schoenthalers experiment were eating normal. Also without daily vitamin pill. What did the Dutch eat just after the war? Kale with sausage? Sprouts? Beef? Perfect! Give today's youth regularly and life will be a lot more convenient!"
How unbalanced food is leading to biochemical disturbances in the brain and how we can correct these disturbances with vitamins and minerals, is partly clear. Anyone who searches dusty archives of medical libraries will find in a century of documentation tens of connections and theories, but hardly explainations. Anti social behavior has something to do with too much sugar, white flour and shortage of vitamin B11 (folic acid), vitamin B1 (thiamin) and minerals like iron, selenium and magnesium. The same is true for depression, panic-problems and hyperactivity. A lot more is not known in those libraries.
More clear is the role of the omega-3 fatty acids. They play a role in the functioning of the brain. They are in green vegetables, but mostly found in fat fish. Countless studies have proved, among them a research carried out in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, suggests that a herring helps to avoid that we get depressed and senile. The fatty acids play an important role within the signal transmission in the brains. With a shortage anything can happen in our white/grey telecommunications center. "The minimal amount of omega-3 fatty acids in our Western menu leads to a problem with the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamin," says neuropsychiatrist Emanual Severus from the University of Berlin. And the Swedish pathologist Tom Saldeen: "In the Northern European countries the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids has dropped in the last 80 years by 80%. That has not only bad effects on the heart and blood vessels, but also on our brain and our feelings of complacency. That last one does not get any attention. The brain consists of about 50% of omega-3 fatty acids. It is an essential fat, the body can not produce it from other fats. Isn't it obvious we get less happy when our brain gets too little of that Omega-3 fatty acids?"
Not only less happy, also a little more stupid and finally even depressed or demented. Children become smarter adults when they are fed with mother's milk, naturally rich of Omega-3 fatty acids. Alzheimer patients have clearly a shortage of Omega-3 fatty acids in their brains. The same is true for children with ADHD and people with bipolar disorder. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids from food supplements almost always makes them feel better!
But what do our brains have to do with fish? Much, and it is growing ever more obvious. Omega-3 fatty acids are so fundamental to the creating and functioning of our nervous system, that a group of scientists thinks that our large Homo Sapiens brains are evolved in an environment where they got omega-3 fatty acids richly. That is: near the sea shores, where he could catch a lot of fish. "That enormous brain that gave people their unique position in nature, could only be evolved in an eco-system with a constant supply of omega-3 fatty acids," sais Elaine Morgan, the British writer of the book "The aquatic ape. "No wonder we go back in mental achievements when we don't eat those fatty acids anymore." Morgan's theory (loaned from Britisch paleontologist Alistair Hardy) in a nutshell: seven million years ago apes were forced to live near the sea shores due to a geological change. They changed their habitat from the jungle to those sea shores ... Due to the omega-3 fatty acids, the brains could grow larger and larger. Even larger than the brains of hyper intelligent dolphins. Those anthropoid apes evolved qualities typical for animals living in the sea. The constant walking around in the sea made them walk up-right. Old rests of these people (like Lucy) were found between rests of lobsters and shellfish. Very wise food!
Prisoners Less Violent When Given Supplements
A study published in the July 2002 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that the simple use of nutritional supplements can significantly reduce behavior problems among prisoners. The research was carried out by a team led by C. Bernard Gesch of University Laboratory of Physiology, University of Oxford
Basing the study on previous work that has shown the adverse behavioral effects of nutritional deficiencies, the researchers set out to test if adequate intakes of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids could improve antisocial behavior.
The experiment was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of nutritional supplements on 231 young adult prisoners, comparing disciplinary offenses before and during supplementation.
Those receiving the active capsules committed an average of 26.3% fewer offenses. Compared to baseline, the effect on those taking active supplements for a minimum of 2 weeks was an average 35.1% reduction of offenses, whereas placebos remained within standard error.
Update November 2004 - a recent article published in The Observer - UK:
Criminals to be fed vitamins to improve behaviour
Gaby Hinsliff, chief political correspondent
Sunday November 28, 2004
Criminals are to be given vitamin supplements in an unusual attempt to reduce anti-social behaviour which will test the effect of diet on the brain.
The move is controversial, with many in the prison service sceptical that healthy food could make much difference to hardened criminals.
The proposals being drawn up within the Home Office reflect a growing interest in the potential link between junk diets laced with additives and disturbed or hyperactive behaviour. American research has shown a link between poor diet and aggressive or impulsive tendencies, including a recently published US study of young children from Mauritius which found they were significantly less likely to grow up to have criminal records if fed an enriched diet from a young age.
The Youth Justice Board is helping to organise the British trial, which would involve young offenders who are serving community sentences, or who have recently been released from jail, being given daily supplements of fatty acids, trace minerals and vitamins to see if it reduces anti-social behaviour.
'We have agreed to assist them by facilitating access to young people where necessary,' said a spokesman. 'We are interested in seeing the results of this.'
The project raises ethical questions. While only volunteers will take part, if dramatic results from changing offenders' diets can be shown, that will raise the question of whether prison diets should be altered to 'dose' prison inmates into better behaviour.
Conversely, the approach is likely to be attacked by right-wing critics as allowing offenders to escape responsibility for their own crimes by blaming their diets.
However, a small previous study of teenagers in a young offenders' institution carried out by the research charity Natural Justice, found that boosting offenders' diets with supplements reduced disciplinary incidents - such as attacks on fellow inmates and officers, or breaking prison rules - by a third. While prison menus did offer healthy options, the researchers realised that inmates avoided them in favour of a diet of junk food that left them deprived of nutrients.
The charity wants to try to replicate the findings using a much larger group of young offenders, and examine the effect on their reoffending rates.
Bernard Gesch, chair of the charity, said: 'We are very pleased that they are interested enough to look at this. The implications are fairly massive: the government is forced to pump millions into anti-social behaviour programmes, and surely given the scale of findings we demonstrated [in the young offenders' institution] the dots aren't too difficult to join up.'
Prisons Minister Paul Goggins disclosed recently in a parliamentary written answer to the senior Tory MP Alistair Burt that the Home Office is considering research on offenders' diet.
The Prison Service is currently awaiting the results of a similar study involving offenders in Holland.
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Tough on crime, to hell with the causes of crime if they make money
Research shows a direct link between junk food and violent behaviour. But governments are in cahoots with the industry
Tuesday May 2, 2006
(Original in The Guardian)
Does television cause crime? The idea that people copy the violence they watch is debated endlessly by criminologists. But this column concerns an odder and perhaps more interesting idea: if crime leaps out of the box, it is not the programmes that are responsible as much as the material in between. It proposes that violence emerges from those blissful images of family life, purged of all darkness, that we see in the advertisements.
Let me begin, in constructing this strange argument, with a paper published in the latest edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It provides empirical support for the contention that children who watch more television eat more of the foods it advertises. "Each hour increase in television viewing," it found, "was associated with an additional 167 kilocalories per day." Most of these extra calories were contained in junk foods: fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits, sweets, burgers and chicken nuggets. Watching television, the paper reported, "is also inversely associated with intake of fruit and vegetables".
There is no longer any serious debate about what a TV diet does to your body. A government survey published last month shows that the proportion of children in English secondary schools who are clinically obese has almost doubled in 10 years. Today, 27% of girls and 24% of boys between 11 and 15 years old suffer from this condition, which means they are far more likely to contract diabetes and to die before the age of 50. But the more interesting question is what this diet might do to your mind. There are now scores of studies suggesting that it hurts the brain as much as it hurts the heart and the pancreas. Among the many proposed associations is a link between bad food and violent or antisocial behaviour.
The most spectacular results were those reported in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 1997. The researchers had conducted a double-blind, controlled experiment in a jail for chronic offenders aged between 13 and 17. Many of the boys there were deficient in certain nutrients. They consumed, on average, only 63% of the iron, 42% of the magnesium, 39% of the zinc, 39% of the vitamin B12 and 34% of the folate in the US government's recommended daily allowance. The researchers treated half the inmates with capsules containing the missing nutrients, and half with placebos. They also counselled all the prisoners in the trial about improving their diets. The number of violent incidents caused by inmates in the control group (those taking the placebos) fell by 56%, and in the experimental group by 80%. But among the inmates in the placebo group who refused to improve their diets, there was no reduction. The researchers also wired their subjects to an electroencephalograph to record brainwave patterns, and found a major decrease in abnormalities after 13 weeks on supplements.
A similar paper, published in 2002 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that among young adult prisoners given supplements of the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids in which they were deficient, disciplinary offences fell by 26% in the experimental group, and not at all in the control group. Researchers in Finland found that all 68 of the violent offenders they tested during another study suffered from reactive hypoglycaemia: an abnormal tolerance of glucose caused by an excessive consumption of sugar, carbohydrates and stimulants such as caffeine.
In March this year the lead author of the 2002 report, Bernard Gesch, told the Ecologist magazine that "having a bad diet is now a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour ... Likewise, a diagnosis of psychopathy, generally perceived as being a better predictor than a criminal past, is still miles behind what you can predict just from looking at what a person eats."
Why should a link between diet and behaviour be surprising? Quite aside from the physiological effects of eating too much sugar (apparent to anyone who has attended a children's party), the brain, whose function depends on precise biochemical processes, can't work properly with insufficient raw materials. The most important of these appear to be unsaturated fatty acids (especially the omega 3 types), zinc, magnesium, iron, folate and the B vitamins, which happen to be those in which the prisoners in the 1997 study were most deficient.
A report published at the end of last year by the pressure group Sustain explained what appear to be clear links between deteriorating diets and the growth of depression, behavioural problems, Alzheimer's and other forms of mental illness. Sixty per cent of the dry weight of the brain is fat, which is "unique in the body for being predominantly composed of highly unsaturated fatty acids". Zinc and magnesium affect both its metabolism of lipids and its production of neurotransmitters - the chemicals which permit the nerve cells to communicate with each other.
The more junk you eat, the less room you have for foods which contain the chemicals the brain needs. This is not to suggest that food advertisers are solely responsible for the decline in the nutrients we consume. As Graham Harvey's new book We Want Real Food shows, industrial farming, dependent on artificial fertilisers, has greatly reduced the mineral content of vegetables, while the quality of meat and milk has also declined. Nor do these findings suggest that a poor diet is the sole cause of crime and antisocial behaviour. But the studies I have read suggest that any government that claims to take crime seriously should start hitting the advertisers.
Instead, our government sits back while the television regulator, Ofcom, canoodles with the food industry. While drawing up its plans to control junk food adverts, Ofcom held 29 meetings with food producers and advertisers and just four with health and consumer groups. The results can be seen in the consultation document it published. It proposes to do nothing about adverts among programmes made for children over nine and nothing about the adverts the younger children watch most often. Which? reports that the most popular ITV programmes among two- to nine-year-olds are Dancing on Ice, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, but Ofcom plans to regulate only the programmes made specifically for the under-nines. It claims that tougher rules would cost the industry too much. To sustain the share values of the commercial broadcasters, Ofcom is prepared to sacrifice the physical and psychological wellbeing of our children.
At the European level, the collusion is even more obvious. Last week, Viviane Reding, the European media commissioner, spoke to a group of broadcasters about her plans to allow product placement in European TV programmes (this means that the advertisers would be allowed to promote their wares during, rather than just between, the programmes). She complained that her proposal had been attacked by the European parliament. "You have to fight if you want to keep it," she told the TV executives. "I would like to make it very clear that I need your support in this."
I spent much of last week trying to discover whether the Home Office is taking the research into the links between diet and crime seriously. In the past, it has insisted that further studies are needed, while failing to fund them. First my request was met with incredulity, then I was stonewalled. Tough on crime. To hell with the causes of crime.
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Update October 2006:
An article published in The Guardian:
Delayed: the food study that could cut prison violence by 'up to 40%'
Tuesday October 17, 2006
The Guardian, UK
The Home Office has been accused of delaying new research that aims to reduce violence in Britain's overcrowded prisons by up to 40%. The former chief inspector of prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, said yesterday that the department was guilty of "breathtaking prevarication" over a proposed trial to improve prisoners' nutrition, which he believes would dramatically reduce offending behaviour in jails.
Prisons in England and Wales were full last week, with a record number of nearly 80,000 prisoners. Better nutrition would have a "huge impact" on prison life, Lord Ramsbotham said. "If the correct mix of diet reduces offending behaviour - and I am absolutely convinced there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour - it's hugely important for prisoners, it frees up staff time for rehabilitation."
Earlier scientific work conducted by the charity Natural Justice, of which Lord Ramsbotham is a trustee, demonstrated a causal link between bad diet and the number of violent incidents at Aylesbury young offenders' institution. In a double blind placebo controlled trial, the number of incidents dropped when prisoners were given multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
Since the study was published in 2002, the charity and researchers at Oxford University have been trying to get the go-ahead to repeat the trial on a larger scale at other prisons. They have secured more than £1m funding from an independent research charity, and the prison service confirmed that it had identified two prisons to take part, but the work has been blocked by delays at the Home Office, Lord Ramsbotham told the Guardian. The Dutch government has conducted a study giving prisoners nutritional supplements.
"It would cost roughly £3.5m to give the correct balance of nutrients, either through proper diet or supplements across the prison service. For that you could have up to 40% reduction in violent behaviour. So why isn't the Home Office embracing it?" Lord Ramsbotham said.
A National Audit Office report in March 2006 found that prison catering had reduced its costs while improving standards since 1997, but noted that government recommendations on healthy diets were only "partially" met and prisoners often made poor choices of food so they did not get a balanced diet.
A spokesman for the Home Office said all research was subject to approval by the department's project quality approval board. The government was committed to offering all prisoners a healthy diet and provided at least one low-fat, low-sugar option on every menu. "The NAO report makes very clear that meals offer recommended levels of vitamins and minerals," he added.
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Other related articles
You do what you eat
Forget tougher punishments and hiring more police. The solution to crime and violence is on your plate. Here’s how healthy food can reduce aggressive behaviour.
Poor diet linked to bad behaviour
Children who have a poor diet are more likely to become aggressive and anti-social, US researchers believe. The University of Southern California found a lack of zinc, iron, vitamin B and protein in the first three years caused bad behaviour later on.
Lack of basic nutrition creates generation of criminals; prison system society
A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that children who experience malnutrition exhibit strikingly increased behavioral disorders and aggressive behavior as they grow older.
Reduced violent behavior following biochemical therapy - William J. Walsh, Laura B. Glab and Mary L. Haakenson
Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners
BBC News: Lead 'turning children to crime'
Lead pollution may be turning children into criminals, US experts fear. Exposure even at low doses can cause aggression and behavioural problems in children, the scientist who first linked lead to lower IQ believes.
Oil pills boost pupil brain power
Children who were under performing in class have seen an improvement in concentration and behaviour after taking a cocktail of natural oils. More than 120 children aged between six and 12 took part in trials, funded by Durham County Council. Half used a combination of omega-3 fish oil and omega-6 evening primrose oil and half an olive oil placebo. The research showed children's learning and behaviour improved significantly when taking the natural fatty acids.
Inside Britain's Schools: Schools are waking up to the link between processed food and disruptive behaviour. Now ministers must catch up
By Nicholas Pyke - 05 June 2005
The teachers had lost patience; his mother was at her wits' end. Even the psychologists were unable to cope with seven-year-old Reece De-Allie, whose hyperactive temper tantrums were destroying his own prospects and helping to wreck lessons at his south London school.
Yet, in the space of a single week, Reece was transformed thanks to a simple change of diet. Cutting out sugar and adding nutrients produced an attentive, helpful student his own family could barely recognise. According to his mother, Joanna, the result is a "miracle". For a growing number of parents and teachers, however, it is plain common sense. There is mounting evidence that sugar-rich foods and a shortage of fresh vegetables are linked to ill-discipline, disruption and the explosion in the numbers of children described as "hyperactive" or diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder.
BBC News, Monday, 16 January 2006
Mental health link to diet change
Changes to diets over the last 50 years may be playing a key role in the rise of mental illness, a study says.
Criminal Element: Lead's Effect on Behavior - and Violent Crime
Reyes started looking into the effects of lead poisoning. She learned that even low levels of lead can cause brain damage that makes children less intelligent and, in some cases, more impulsive and aggressive. She also discovered that the main source of lead in the air and water had not been paint but rather leaded gasoline - until it was phased out in the 1970s and '80s by the Clean Air Act, which took blood levels of lead for all Americans down to a fraction of what they had been. "Putting the two together," she says, "it seemed that this big change in people's exposure to lead might have led to some big changes in behavior."
Reyes found that the rise and fall of lead-exposure rates seemed to match the arc of violent crime, but with a 20-year lag - just long enough for children exposed to the highest levels of lead in 1973 to reach their most violence-prone years in the early '90s, when crime rates hit their peak.
posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday October 15 2003
updated on Wednesday December 8 2010
URL of this article:
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