Study to Assess Link Between Nutrition and BehaviorIn Humans

The Economist is a rich source of material for this blog. The February 2, 2008 issue contained an article that discusses probable links between nutrition...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 12th 2008


The Economist is a rich source of material for this blog. The February 2, 2008 issue contained an article that discusses probable links between nutrition and antisocial behavior in people.

The article discusses a study that will be carried out in the United Kingdom on 1,000 prison inmates. From the article:

The trial will replicate, on a larger scale, a stucy carried out . . . in 2002. Then, volunteers were given either capsules containing their official daily requirements of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (such as omega-3s) or placebos . . . [t]hose who received the extra nutrients committed 26.3% fewer offences than those who got the placebo. For violent offences, the reduction was 37%.

The current study will involve blood testing, and will correlate nutrient levels with impulsivity and heart-rate variability (which is ultimately a predictor of anti-social behavior). The goal is to determine if certain nutrients may help to inhibit undesirable behaviors.

How, you may ask, does this relate to pets? Like many organs, the brains of animals are similar to those of humans. Many undesirable behaviors in pets, such as aggression, biting or scratching, appear to be impulsive and anti-social in many cases. Syndromes such as separation anxiety in dogs may be related to human conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, that may be affected by diet.

In the future, an increased understanding of animal nutrition may lead to a reduction of these sorts of behaviors in pets. However, dont run off to the pet store for nutritional supplements right away. We have a lot to learn before this becomes reality.