The prevention of crime has been a hot topic of discussion for years, with people immediately tending to think of the cause as being either psychological or socioeconomic. Many charities have even been set up to target these specific areas, supporting and mentoring adults and children in deprived parts of the country or those with mental health issues.
However, recently a new line of thought has come into play, and that is nutrition. Food is now beginning to creep into conversation and studies are being carried out to test for significant relationship patterns.
There have definitely been some clear links found between diet and hyperactivity, with the main culprits being sugar, processed, and refined foods. These specific foods create unpleasant behavioral effects, highlighting an important connection between food and characteristics of criminal behavior.
In one particular study in 2002, about 230 young adult prisoners were selected to take part in a placebo-controlled trial. As the name implies, half of these prisoners were given placebos and half were given nutritional supplements, so that any effects found could be related to the actual contents of the tablets rather than the act of consuming them. These supplements contained essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals vital for health.
The results that came back were amazing; the prisoners who had been selected to take the supplements had a 36% reduction in disciplinary offenses compared to those taking the placebos! This showed that just by boosting the diet with some good nutrition, behavior could be improved.
In another study, 68 prisoners were selected to have their diet modified. However, this time they were unaware they were taking part in a trial and the diet was altered in secret. Without them knowing, all refined sugar was removed and their behavior was assessed in the following weeks. Again, there was an astonishing result; compared to the 36% reduction in offenses before, this time there was an 80% reduction in experienced behavioral problems! So while boosting vitamins, minerals, and fats had a great effect, the biggest behavior -modifier by far was sugar!
As with all scientific experiments, people were slightly suspicious of the results and wanted to know whether any of it was relevant to the world outside prisons. To check this out, about 470 children from a school in America were recruited for a study. This was another placebo-controlled trial; some were given a daily nutritional supplement and some were given a daily placebo. Results confirmed what scientists had already shown—nutrition was relevant to behavior. The children taking a nutritional supplement showed a 47% decrease in the rate of anti-social behavior compared to those taking the placebos! This behavior covered eight different categories including things like fighting and threats, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and refusal to do school work.
From these results, researchers concluded that essential nutrients improve brain function, which is what in turn leads to a reduction in violent behavior. This research in itself is incredible and can have major implications for life decisions.
Rather than just blaming a malfunctioning brain, faulty genetics, or a difficult upbringing, it’s time we started to think about what we feed people. From ourselves and our children to those in mental health hospitals and in prison, food plays a massive role in behavior.
Here is my list of six “criminal preventatives:”
- Eliminate sugar (even raw cane sugar) and syrups like high-fructose corn syrup. No, fruit does not count as sugar!
- Read all packaging and don’t eat anything that sounds like a chemistry lesson.
- Eat healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados.
- Have a wide selection of fresh vegetables throughout the day (and fruit!).
- Don’t touch processed or refined foods like white bread or white pasta.
- Eat whole grains and beans.
Never forget that we can all do something for our present well-being and behavior, and that starts with the food we put on our plate.
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