Can changing what a person eats reduce aggression? It’s an intriguing idea. Some studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils reduce aggressive behavior and hostility in young people. Now, a new study shows that supplementing with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with vitamins and minerals could help to reduce aggression in the prison population.
Reducing Aggression with Diet
In this study, published in the journal Aggressive Behavior, researchers found that giving prisoners nutritional supplements containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with vitamins and minerals reduced aggression by more than a third – as measured by the number of violent incidents that occurred in the prison. This was a rather small study consisting of 200 inmates, but researchers are encouraged by the results. A previous study carried out in England showed similar results.
How Do Fatty Acids Reduce Aggression?
Fatty acids such as the omega-3’s play an important role in mood. When there’s a deficiency of omega-3’s it affects the levels of serotonin in the brain – a neurotransmitter that’s important for mood and a sense of well being. Low levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with aggression, impulsive behavior, substance abuse, and depression – and having adequate levels of serotonin may be particularly important in early life when the brain is still developing. Deficiencies in certain fatty acids could have long term effects on brain development – increasing the risk of aggressive behavior and mood disorders such as depression.
Reducing Aggression in Animals Too?
Using nutritional therapy – particularly fatty acids – for reducing aggressive behavior may extend to animals as well. Some studies show that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids reduces signs of aggressive behavior in dogs. There are two main omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA. Of the two, DHA plays the more important role in brain health. Studies show that aggressive dogs have reduced levels of DHA in their bloodstream and in their brain. Fatty acid supplements are also being looked at as a way to reduce aggression and hyperactivity in children.
Nutrition for Aggressive Behavior: The Bottom Line?
Nutrition may play an important role in reducing aggression in both humans and animals. This is hardly surprising since foods can affect the levels of neurotransmitters that play such a critical role in influencing mood and behavior. Could a better diet help to reduce the prison population? It certainly deserves more investigation.