My conclusion - practically speaking, I hope that prisoners in the US get a supplement (come to think of it, I have a friend who is a doctor in the prison system - but she was asking me what I thought about recommendations for vitamin D, so maybe the official guidelines aren't solid. Hmmm. Time to fire off a facebook message). I don't care if it is the best pharmaceutical grade supplement on the planet, a month of supplementation can't be more costly than a couple of days in prison. And total number of days in prison and parole and solitary and all those situations are in part determined by prisoner behavior, I imagine. I'm guessing that prisoners receive the most horrendous, cheap, grain-and-soy and margarine foods imaginable. We have to "get tough on crime" after all. Our tax dollars at work.
Of course I am being far too sensible - from the article about the pioneering diet and violence researcher Gesch in Science in 2009:
"Decades of studies by Schoenthaler and others have supported a connection between nutrition and violence, but for a variety of reasons—some scientific, others political—it hasn’t yet translated into policy."
But let's step back from pragmatism for a moment. Here's the real issue with the science I pursue, at least in the eyes of the medical establishment (also from the Science article):
“This field has seen a lot of exaggerated claims and not enough solid placebo-controlled research,” says Eugene Arnold, a psychiatrist and former director of the Nisonger Center at Ohio State University, Columbus. Studies have shown that “there clearly is a connection” between nutrients and behavioral disorders—for example, between nutrition and depression— but rigorous research has been the exception, he says. Most studies of the effects of nutrition on antisocial behavior are dismissed because of poor experimental design. And Arnold notes that misleading claims by the booming nutrient supplement industry have brought the taint of pseudoscience to those studying diet and behavior. “Even good scientists in this field have been treated as guilty by association,” he says.
Gesch began working with young offenders in the 80s as a social worker. He would invite groups over for home-cooked meals, (the goal being that the atmosphere would help them open up and share their troubles) and Gesch noticed that after a while, the kids would be "transformed...
...becoming healthier and often abandoning the antisocial behaviors that had gotten them into trouble. He began to believe that shedding their scattershot diets of junk food was central to the behavioral shift, perhaps even more so than the family-like socializing. "
Finally he was able to obtain funding for his 2002 study, now replicated, and at the same time Gesch gathered data for a second paper on how food choices of prisoners affected actual daily intake of nutrients. He found (not surprisingly) that, when they got the chance, prisoners would buy food like peanuts, chips, candy and cookies from the prison store, which would add to their daily intake of omega-6 oils, trans fats, grains, and sugar. In addition, though the prison diets were designed by institutional dietitians, most had suboptimal amounts of vitamin D (even compared to the lowly 400 IU recommended for people with little sun) and selenium, and the vegetarian and Muslim menus often had some suboptimal B vitamins and total calories.
Just want to mention here Schoenthaler's randomized controlled trial from 2000, of 80 six-twelve year old schoolchildren who had previously been disciplined at school in "working class" Hispanic neighborhoods of Phoenix - Schoenthaler notes that previous randomized controlled trials of supplementation of the RDA for prisoners resulted in a 40% decrease in number of violent acts - his results were a 47% decrease in violent acts among the supplemented kids compared to the placebo controls. I'd call that more replication. And a call for some serious multivitamin/multimineral/EFA supplementation action on a large scale in institutions such as prisons, especially where relatives are often not allowed to bring in outside food.
Of course, nutrition is only a part of the larger problem of violence and crime. But in institutions, it seems like a relatively 30-40% controllable part, if only common sense would prevail.