Food and Behaviour Research

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Relationships of diet-related blood parameters and blood lead levels with psychopathology and aggression in forensic psychiatric inpatients.

Zaalberg A, Wielders J, Bulten E, van der Staak C, Wouters A, Nijman H (2016) Crim Behav Ment Health. 26(3) 196-211. doi: 10.1002/cbm.1954. Epub 2015 Mar 31. 

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Abstract:

BACKGROUND:

Earlier studies have suggested associations between diet-related blood parameters and both aggression and psychopathological symptoms, but little is known about this in forensic psychiatric inpatients.

AIM:

This article aims to explore the levels of diet-related blood parameters and their relationship to aggressive behaviour and/or psychopathology among Dutch forensic psychiatric inpatients.

METHODS:

Minerals, vitamins, lead and fatty acid levels were measured in blood samples from 51 inpatients, well enough to consent and participate in the study, from a possible total of 99. Levels of aggression and psychopathology were assessed using questionnaires, observation instruments and clinical data. Associations between blood parameters and behavioural measures were calculated.

RESULTS:

Low average levels of vitamin D3 and omega (ω)-3 fatty acids were found, with nearly two-thirds of the patients having below recommended levels of D3 , while vitamin B6 levels were high. Magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and lead were overall within reference values, but copper/zinc ratios were high. Several significant associations between levels of fatty acid measures and both aggression and psychopathology were observed.

CONCLUSION:

In our sample of forensic psychiatric inpatients, fatty acids - but not mineral or vitamin levels - were associated with aggression and psychopathology. A potentially causal link between fatty acids and aggression could be tested in a randomised, placebo-controlled trial of fish oil supplements. General health of such patients might be improved by better vitamin D status (increased sun exposure and/or supplement use) and better ω-3 fatty acid status (oily fish or fish oil consumption), but discouraging unnecessary self-prescription of B vitamins where necessary.