A debate on diet and violence (1)

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Food affects behavior. For example, cultures that produce epic poetry

consume dairy products. How do you change a hardened criminal into a

useful citizen? Take away his candy bars. This is not a joke, it's

part of a quiet change in the diet of incarcerated persons in many

parts of the country. It's the result of a groundbreaking study of

what happened when the diet of 276 teenage boys in a Virginia

detention center was altered to exclude the huge amounts of white

sugar they'd been eating. After fruit juices replaced colas, and

carrots replaced cookies, antisocial behavior dropped 48% Thefts fell

77%, and assaults dropped 82% Staff members who provided the

information didn't know there was a study underway. While everyone is

responsible for their own behavior, crime may well have a biochemical

basis. A study of 318 Ohio convicts found 252 of them were

malnourished. Those who remained on a new, healthy diet after leaving

jail had few problems with the law. And, in Pierce County,

Washington, adult offenders fed nutritionally wholesome food as part

of an experimental program returned to crime 1/3 as often as the

fellows who'd continued on the standard jailhouse fare.


Alexander Schauss' book Diet, Crime, and Delinquency, states that

malnutrition is the prime cause of criminal behavior. The Myth of

Health in America (Fry, 1976) cites statistics like the following:

only 1.5% of the U.S. population can be considered healthy. The U.S.

is 89th among nations in death rate. Cancer is the number one cause

of disease-related death of children.


Perhaps the most interesting part of America's chronic borderline

malnutrition is increasingly mineral deficient food, which comes from

mineral deficient soil. Consider what happens to pregnant women when

they need a nutrient: they get cravings. But isn't this true for

everyone? What exactly are the "munchies"? One reason Americans tend

to be obese is that if the body doesn't get the nutrition it needs, it

craves more food. If the only food available is empty calories, well,

that's what is eaten. One could consider what role such cravings have

in substance addiction, too. By comparison, Stone Age Nomadics

courses recommend 2/3 cup a day of wild foods, as any more makes one

feel stuffed. America has the good fortune to have access to many

diverse ideas. One of those is traditional Indian [Ayurvedic] and

Oriental medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, there are 3 major classes

of foods. They are:


Rajasic: fresh flesh, high unsaturated fats, unrefined grains &c.:

this is a high protein diet intended for warriors and laborers who

need physical strength and stamina.


Sattvic: this is essentially a Vegan diet. There are no animal

products. It includes fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes,

roots, nuts and seeds. It is intended for persons interested in more

mental or spiritual pursuits. Tamasic: this class of food is considered undesirable. This


any deep fried food, foods with saturated fats, preservatives, or

poisons, and any stale, mouldy, or otherwise decayed food, overly

sweet and acidic food, and so on. Tamasic diet was believed to lead

to a deterioration in conscience and morality, violent and other

socially undesirable behavior, and breakdown of immune systems as

degenerative diseases.


Oriental medicine would regard Tamasic foods as undesirable, also.

You could watch the evening news, and the accompanying commercials.

You could realize that Heart Disease, which is caused mostly by diet,

kills more Americans than firearms, cars, and several other causes put

together. You could note the interesting rise in immune deficiency

diseases, and perhaps draw your own conclusions. Alcohol and drugs

are involved with over 3/4 of all crimes. We may never be able to

address domestic abuse, for example, without first addressing problems

of alcohol.


Getting good food in some areas is difficult. One solution is to form

cooperative groceries. This not only provides better food at lower

prices, it also puts money in people's pockets, as well as offering

them an opportunity to take more control of their lives. We believe

that the following folks may be a helpful resource. There are other

such cooperatives nationwide, you might try Encyclopedia of

Associations in your Public Library.


Northeast Cooperatives

49 Bennett Dr.

POB 8188

Brattleboro, VT 05304-8188

1-800-334-9939, x358


Co-Op America

2100 M. St. NW Suite 403

WDC 20037

203 872 5307


Co-Op Resource Center

1442A Walnut St.

Berkeley, CA 94709

510 538 0454


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