British prisoners are to be given food supplements in a three-year trial that will investigate whether nutrient levels can affect anti-social and violent behaviour among inmates. The trial will be carried out at three UK institutions and involve about 1,000 men aged between and 16-21.
The $2.72 million study follows a previous UK prison trial at Aylesbury that found a positive link between fish oil supplement consumption and good behaviour. It found those who had supplements committed 26 per cent fewer disciplinary offences and 37 per cent fewer violent offences than those given a placebo.
In another trial, school children improved concentration and learning capacity when given fish oil supplements.
"The difference here is we have a proportion of people who in many cases have committed fairly horrendous offences against other people,? said study leader John Stein of Oxford University. ?The question is would they have committed them if they had been better nourished in the community… a considerable number of them would not have been in prison if they had been better nourished. That would have a huge economic benefit.?
Mark Walport, head of the Wellcome Trust, which is funding the three-year study, said: "If this study shows that nutritional supplementation affects behaviour it could have profound significance for nutritional guidelines, not only within the criminal justice system but in the wider community — in schools, for example. We are all used to nutritional guidelines for our physical health but this study could lead to revisions taking account of our mental health."
At the time the Aylesbury study was concluded, in 2002, it was estimated it would cost the UK Prison Service $5.5 million to provide all inmates with daily multivitamin supplements for one year out of a then $3 billion budget.