Delinquency and Crime: A dietary approach

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Behind the news stories advocating a tough stance on crime, nutrition remains a part of the solution that fails to be fully recognised for its value. In recent decades, targeted nutritional changes have been found to radically improve many instances of aggressive and violent antisocial behaviour in children and adults. For institutions such as schools and prisons, these findings would be highly relevant to institutions such as schools and prisons.

Numerous studies have confirmed that abnormal levels of neurotransmitters, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and hormones within the body strongly influence antisocial activity. And although behavioural difficulties usually stem from a deficiency condition, sometimes excess is responsible.

The first papers linking unhealthy diets to biochemical imbalances within the brain and nervous system appeared in the 1980’s, when anti-junk food crusader Stephen Schoenthaler took up the issue. Today Schoenthaler is a Professor of Criminal Justice at California State University.


Deficient in thiamine

US doctor and nutritional researcher Derrick Lonsdale organised a study in which a group of healthy people received a diet deficient in thiamine (vitamin B1.) These individuals were observed to become quarrelsome and irritable, and later aggressive, with their behaviour returning to normal when a balanced diet was restored.

Thiamine in particular helps the brain and nervous system to metabolise glucose. Because refined sugar destroys thiamine in the body, daily requirements are higher among people who eat sugary diets. Lonsdale concluded that a decreased efficiency in brain metabolism causes the “primitive brain” (stem) to come to the fore, while its connection with the more evolved ‘cognitive brain’ (cortex) grows weaker. Through this mechanism, an individual may become consumed by their aggressive instincts.


Copper and zinc imbalance

American scientist William J. Walsh has identified a correlation between violent behaviour and imbalanced trace mineral levels in the body, in particular elevated copper and depleted zinc. This is far more common among women than among men, and can be detected using hair analysis.

{quotes}… this imbalance … can lead to fighting among boys, and promiscuity among girls{/quotes} According to Walsh, this imbalance (referred to as Type A) can lead to fighting among boys, and promiscuity among girls. A second group (Type B), characterised by low copper levels and high traces of toxic metals, is associated with a range of behaviours that include assault, lack of remorse and lying. Despite affecting only a small percentage of the population, most mass murderers and career criminals who have been tested fall into the Type B category.

Following the start of corrective treatment, Walsh discovered a significant improvement in Type As within 25 days, with Type Bs requiring only a week.

 

Tackling the ADHD problem
Lonsdale believes that most unruliness in schools can be traced to high-calorie refined sugary foods with little nutritional benefit. Such poor diets are common in low socio-economic households.
In Australia and overseas, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is several times more common in boys than girls, with a similar ratio of psychoactive drug prescriptions. Some experts believe that this and other similar problems can be the precursors of teenage delinquent patterns leading to criminal behaviour in adulthood.

ADHD studies involving B-vitamin supplements (for the nervous system) and fish oil (rich in Omega 3, which is beneficial for the brain) have identified marked improvements, to the extent that some affected children no longer fall into the ADHD category.
Prison success stories
Although most adults do not engage in crime, many of us encounter angry outbursts and road rage. At a societal level, nutritional improvements are likely to help people get along with each other, and create a more harmonious living environment.

The supplement group saw a 25 per cent reduction in the number of offences, and a 40 per cent reduction in violent acts.

In prisons, nutritional techniques have also been effective. For a 2002 UK study covered in the British Journal of Psychiatry, half of a group of 230 young offenders was given a supplement containing vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, while the other half received a placebo. The supplement group saw a 25 per cent reduction in the number of offences, and a 40 per cent reduction in violent acts. No change was observed in the placebo group.

Probation officers have been carrying out similar work. In Ohio, probation officer Barbara Reed used nutrition to reduce the re-offending rate among several adolescents. Given such successes, it is counterproductive to reduce the quality of prison food in cost-cutting exercises.

Despite unequivocal proof of a correlation between diet and crime, mainstream media and the medical fraternity appear to be wishing it away. Psychiatry, with its emphasis on pharmaceutical drugs, sees nutritional therapy as a competitor.

Equally controversial is the view among some naturopaths that because of unsustainable chemical farming practices, food crops tend to lack vital trace minerals. For this reason, they believe a well-balanced diet may not provide all the nutrients required for optimum health, and supplementation may be desirable for everyone.

Also pertinent is the ongoing argument over the advertising of junk food to children. In Australia, the Federal Government has preferred to relinquish responsibility to parents who may be too busy to police their offspring’s TV advertising exposure.

 

Save a fortune
From an economic standpoint, nutritional approaches to reducing crime could save a fortune.
Under an intelligent preventative regime, biochemical imbalances in children could be sorted out at a young age, preventing antisocial and criminal behaviour in later life.

In Australia, each prisoner costs taxpayers about $200 a day. Knowing that supplements for children would amount to only a few dollars a month, similar programs for released offenders could be used to reduce re-offending rates.

This is surely more effective than the ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and ‘law and order’ auctions common in state politics. The risk that a preventative nutritional strategy may fail to engage some voters in marginal electorates is no reason for it to be further ignored.

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RESOURCES
Food and Behaviour Research    www.fabresearch.org

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