Nutrition may solve child aggression, but does anyone care?

Mental health researchers Dr. Bonnie Kaplan and Dr. Julia Rucklidge recently wrote an article highlighting a new study that shows nutrition may reduce aggression and violence in children.

They pointed out that this is one of several studies on the subject. Research has shown this connection between nutrition and aggression since the 1990s, and there have even been 5 randomized controlled trials exploring this connection. And not just in children either.

The bigger point of the article isn’t that nutrition is a potential solution for violent behaviour; it’s that despite mounting evidence, nothing is being done about it:

This new study . . . is a timely reminder of the huge challenge we face in this field: despite study after study after study showing the same thing — that there is a simple, cheap solution to reducing aggression in many people — the message hasn’t carried through to changing policies or treatment approaches.

Take psychiatric inpatient units, for example:

In Christchurch, where Julia lives, there has been an increasing problem of violence towards staff in psychiatric inpatient units. However, rather than address the problem with improving the nutrient intake of these most vulnerable people (no possibility of harm and it might even make things better), the district health board reacted by using sedating drugs and hiring more guards.

As the authors have pointed out, policy makers are doing very little to make nutrition a significant part of the solution to violence. Even reducing sugar intake would have some positive impact. But nothing changes.

The question the authors ask at the end of their article is a critical one we should all be asking our local policy makers: One would understand reluctance to use nutrients if there was no evidence, but there is, so what’s holding them back?

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