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catallaxy in technical exile

Nutrition and free will

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Does eating salmon lower the murder rate?

In 2001, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a senior clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, published a study, provocatively titled “Seafood Consumption and Homicide Mortality,” that found a correlation between a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids (most often obtained from fish) and lower murder rates …

Bernard Gesch, a senior research scientist at Oxford University, set out to show that better nutrition does, in fact, decrease violence. He enrolled 231 volunteers at a British prison in his study; one-half received a placebo, while the other half received fatty acids and other supplements. Over time, the antisocial behavior (as measured by assaults and other violations) of the inmates who had been given the supplements dropped by more than a third relative to their previous records. The control group showed little change. Gesch published his results in 2002 and plans to start a larger study later this year …

The belief that people choose to be violent may be irrelevant if the brain isn’t firing on all cylinders. This may especially be the case for impulsive acts of violence, which are less a choice than a failure to rein in one’s worst instincts.

Consider, for example, a study conducted by researchers in Finland. They tested prisoners convicted of violent crimes and found that they had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids than ordinary, healthy subjects. Why? Omega-3’s foster the growth of neurons in the brain’s frontal cortex, the bit of gray matter that controls impulsive behavior. Having enough of these fatty acids may keep violent impulses in check. Violent criminals may not be the only ones who would benefit from more fatty acids in their diet. In a recent double-blind trial, when omega-3’s were given to people with a history of substance abuse, the symptoms of “anger” fell by 50 percent.

Gesch further adds that we shouldn’t expect nutrition alone to banish violent behavior. “The brain needs to be nourished in two ways. It needs to be educated, and it needs nutrients. Both social and physical factors are important.

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Written by Admin

April 19, 2006 at 10:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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