Encouraging healthier eating could be the government's secret weapon in the fight against crime, according to experts.
A study by researchers at the University of Oxford has found that adding vitamins and other vital nutrients to young people's diets can cut crime.
They found that improving the diets of young offenders at a maximum security institution in Buckinghamshire cut offences by 25%.
Bernard Gesch and colleagues at the University of Oxford enrolled 230 young offenders from HM Young Offenders Institution Aylesbury in their study.
Half of the young men received pills containing vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. The other half received placebo or dummy pills.
The researchers recorded the number and type of offences each of the prisoners committed in the nine months before they received the pills and in the nine months during the trial.
They found that the group which received the supplements committed 25% fewer offences than those who had been given the placebo.
The greatest reduction was for serious offences, including violence which fell by 40%.
There was no such reduction for those on the dummy pills.
The authors described the finding as "remarkable".
Mr Gesch said: "The supplements just provided the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids found in a good diet which the inmates should get anyway. Yet the improvement was huge."
He added: "This approach needs to be re-tested but looks to be cheap, highly effective and humane."
The study was organised by Natural Justice, a research charity set up in 1991 to investigate the social and physical causes of crime.
Its chairman Bishop Hugh Montefiore of Birmingham, said: "The study is of great importance not only to those who work inside prisons but also more widely in the community."
He added: "There are many causes of anti-social behaviour. But our project has shown that an important factor is the lack of proper nutrition.
"The reduction of disciplinary offences by 25% among those who took the supplements cannot be shrugged off as insignificant."
Sir David Ramsbotham, former chief inspector of prisons, urged officials to consider the findings.
"It must make sense for the prison service to explore every avenue that might enable every prisoner to live a useful and law abiding life.
"If healthy eating is part of a healthy lifestyle, and a healthy lifestyle is a crime-free lifestyle, I hope that they will look seriously at exploiting the evidence presented to them."
Ron Blackburn, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said: "Efforts to reduce offending usually require major resources.
"This research programme promises to have an impact on antisocial behaviour with minimal intervention and deserves full support."
The above article was found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2063117.stm
Saturday, May 2, 2009
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