A new study involving more than 1,000 prisoners in three UK prisons is underway to investigate the link between nutrition and behavior. The study, which is being led by Professor John Stein at Oxford University, is being funded through a $2.6 million award from the Wellcome Trust, the UK’s largest medical research charity. Stein and colleagues want to learn if dietary adequacy and optimum nutrient dosages required to support brain function and behavior are responsible for the significant reduction in antisocial and violent behavior seen in all studies reported to date in North America and Europe.For Alexander Schauss, PhD, FACN, Senior Director of Natural and Medicinal Products Research at AIBMR Life Sciences, who has spent more than 30 years conducting research on this topic, the news of this funding is particularly significant. “Seeing the level of research on diet and crime reach this level of financial support by the medical community is heartening. But it took over 30 years, even though the evidence was there back in the 1970s.”
In a press release, Dr. Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust stated, “If this study shows that nutritional supplementation affects behavior, it could have profound significance for nutrition guidelines not only within the criminal justice system, but in the wider community, in schools, for example.” He went on to say, “We are all used to nutritional guidelines for our physical health, but this study could lead to revisions taking into account our mental health, as well.”
This Oxford University study will also help determine which dietary supplements might further benefit participants beyond what might be possible with diet alone. Dr. Schauss added, “It is my hope that we see better nutrition education and start with preconceptual care programs that focus on nutrition and other lifestyle factors and behaviors that can decrease the risk of antisocial behavior.”
In 1978, Dr. Schauss published a controversial work entitled Orthomolecular Treatment of Criminal Offenders, which suggested that diet could be used to reduce the incidence of antisocial behavior. After reading the manuscript, Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Laureate, asked to include his signature on the cover as endorsement of the book. Two years later, Schauss had an expanded work come out, Diet, Crime and Delinquency, which was reprinted 14 times between 1980 and 1992, and adopted as required reading by courses at many universities and colleges. Since the publication of the second book, more than 20 controlled clinical trials have been performed in various state and county juvenile and adults institutions and the results published in the scientific literature confirming that diet could indeed be used to reduce the incidence of antisocial behavior by up to 60 percent.
The Oxford University-led study, one of the largest conducted to date to determine the affect of nutrition on behavior, is being conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry at Imperial College, University of London, the University of Surrey, and the University of Liverpool and the Medical Research Council on Human Nutrition Research.
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.
Alexander G. Schauss, PhD, FACN, senior director of natural and medicinal products research for AIBMR Life Sciences, has held faculty appointments at four institutions of higher learning, including that of associate professor of behavioral sciences, associate professor of research, clinical professor of natural products research and adjunct research clinical professor of botanical medicine. He now concentrates on research looking for natural therapies to treat chronic diseases. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Linus Pauling Lecture Award from the American College for the Advancement of Medicine for “contributions to the medical sciences.”