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The diet-behavior link: You do what you eat

Ode, an independent magazine about the people and ideas that are changing the world, has a very in-depth look at the diet-behavior link - You do what you eat

The article starts off by exploring Appleton Central Alternative High School relationship with food and how the beahvior of the school's students has dramatically changed in correlation to the food served in the cafeteria.

Fights and offensive behaviour are extremely rare and the police officer is no longer needed. What happened?

A glance through the halls at Appleton Central Alternative provides the answer. The vending machines have been replaced by water coolers. The lunchroom took hamburgers and French fries off the menu, making room for fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-grain bread and a salad bar.

Is that all? Yes, that’s all. Principal LuAnn Coenen is still surprised when she speaks of the “astonishing” changes at the school since she decided to drastically alter the offering of food and drinks eight years ago. “I don’t have the vandalism. I don’t have the litter. I don’t have the need for high security.”

Article author, Marco Visscher, takes the conversation one step further by exploring the societal understandings of the diet-behavior link. He speaks with Bernard Gesch, physiologist and researcher at the University of Oxford, about his research on the effects of nutrition supplements on prison inmates.

“Most criminal-justice systems assume that criminal behaviour is entirely a matter of free will,” Gesch says. “But how exactly can you exercise free will without involving your brain? How exactly can the brain function without an adequate nutrient supply? Nutrition in fact could be a major player and, for sure, we have seriously underestimated its importance. I think nutrition may actually be one of the most straightforward factors to change antisocial behaviour. And we know that it’s not only highly effective, it’s also cheap and humane.”

Cheap it is. Natural Justice, the British charity institution chaired by Gesch, which is researching “the origins of anti-social and criminal behaviour,” estimates it would cost 3.5 million pounds (5.3 million euros or 6.4 million U.S. dollar) to provide supplements to all the prisoners in Great Britain. That is only a fraction of the current prison budget of 2 billion pounds (3 billion euros or 3.6 billion U.S. dollar).

Visscher concludes:

It seems the link between nutrition and antisocial behaviour shows great promise as both political issue and human-interest story. How much longer will politicians concentrate on police and stricter surveillance as the answer to crime? When will they realize healthy food can help create a healthier society?

What are your thoughts?

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