Can Nutritional Supplements Help Stop Crime?
Prisoners who took a comprehensive nutritional supplement showed a significant reduction in antisocial behavior, including violent acts, according to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry (2002;181:22–8). This new report supports earlier evidence that criminal offenders often consume diets low in essential nutrients, and that subtle nutritional deficiencies can adversely affect their behavior.
In the new study, 231 young adult prisoners were randomly assigned to receive a comprehensive, nutritional supplement (providing vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and essential fatty acids) or a placebo for an average of 20 weeks. The supplement provided approximately the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for most known nutrients. During the study, the group receiving the nutritional supplement committed, on average, 26.3% fewer offenses requiring disciplinary action than did the placebo group, a statistically significant difference. The supplement did not cause any adverse effects.
Many teenagers and young adults consume diets that are loaded with refined sugar, white flour, and other low-nutrient, processed foods. Such diets are often deficient in a wide range of nutrients. It has been known for many years that psychological changes (such as anxiety and depression) are among the earliest signs of various nutrient deficiencies. Thus, an inadequate diet, combined in many cases with poor coping skills, might lead a person to engage in violent or otherwise socially unacceptable behavior.
The results of this study have enormous implications for the rehabilitation of prisoners and for the prevention of antisocial behavior in the community. Moreover, the reduction in offenses observed in this study might even be improved upon if each person's nutritional needs were assessed individually. Although the supplement used in the new study contained the RDA for most nutrients, many individuals appear to have a higher-than-normal requirement for one or more nutrients.
Nutrition-oriented doctors have found that large amounts of B vitamins and other nutrients can often be used successfully to treat various psychiatric problems. For example, niacinamide has been used to treat schizophrenia and vitamin B6 and folic acid have shown positive effects in people with depression. Chromium plays a role in blood sugar regulation, and has been shown to prevent abnormal declines in blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Studies have shown that violent offenders often suffer from reactive hypoglycemia, which may be a contributing factor to their aggressive behavior. Although the nutritional treatment of psychiatric illness remains controversial, the topic clearly warrants additional research.
Alan R. Gaby, MD, an expert in nutritional therapies, testified to the White House Commission on CAM upon request in December 2001. Dr. Gaby served as a member of the Ad-Hoc Advisory Panel of the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine. He is the author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis (Prima, 1994), and co-author of The Natural Pharmacy, 2nd Edition (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), the A–Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions (Healthnotes, Prima, 1999), Clinical Essentials Volume 1 and 2 (Healthnotes, 2000), and The Patient’s Book of Natural Healing (Prima, 1999). A former professor at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, in Kenmore, WA, where he served as the Endowed Professor of Nutrition, Dr. Gaby is the Chief Medical Editor for Healthnotes, Inc.
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