Nutrition and Mental Health

Notes on a Meeting, concerning the successful dietary supplementation of young prisoners and the role of maternal diet in relation to child development,
between Natural Justice (NJ) and The McCarrison Society (McC),
on Monday 14 January 2008 at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Frances Jackson, (NJ Chair)
General Lord David Ramsbotham, (NJ Vice-Chair)
Professor Michael Crawford, David Marsh, Simon House (McC Chair, editors)
Sir Eldred Smith-Gordon (publisher)

David Ramsbotham, directly after our preliminary meeting on December 10th 2007, had heard that the Government was accepting Natural Justice’s scheme for nutrition of prisoners to improve behaviour, now to include extension of nutritional support into their life in the community. This is to be funded by the Wellcome Foundation (a Telegraph error, that it would be funded by the Ministry of Justice, had to be corrected by telephone there and then). Bernard Gesch, the scientist in charge, was to be provided with an administrator to implement this ‘research translation’.

Michael Crawford had just sent a substantial letter to Peter Hain, Minister of Work & Pensions, on their Child Poverty initiative to once again challenge the extraordinary omission over decades to deal with the vital aspect of maternal nutrition:

“... The initiative of a ‘Child Poverty Unit’ should also focus on ... maternal and child poverty … relevant also to employment, health, skills, literacy and anti-social behaviour …

“A child born at low birthweight is likely to give birth to a similarly compromised child creating what is called the ‘Cycle of Deprivation’ ...
The trend to skilled labour exacerbates the difficulty of those restricted by poor early development and hence entrenches the growth of poverty”.
A new initiative is needed to ensure women enter their reproductive phase of life in good nutrition and health with appropriate medical, financial support and basic education in health, nutrition, hygiene and childcare.

Mental ill health has become the highest burden in Europe at €386 billion annually, a surge inevitably contributing to a rise in criminality and violence. With it the burgeoning of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes, all part of the ‘metabolic syndrome’, is due to the Western diet and is fast spreading in the wider world.

Discussion led to agreement that we should promote awareness of the public and authorities, with specifically designed communications for appropriate levels of government, civil and prison services, medical and health professions and so on.

Such a scheme could extend awareness-raising of nutritional care across the parameters of age and situation, particularly in relation to conception, pregnancy, childcare in home and nurseries, education, general and specialist, medical included. Greater awareness should help undermine the official resistance so commonly encountered and increase receptiveness generally.

We can use the wealth of evidence that high levels of criminality and violence by the age of 18 years correlate with toxins and deficient nutrition from before conception, and with prenatal and perinatal stress followed by serious separation from the parent.

We could press for the savings that should accrue to be spent on shifting the entire prison policy – at last – away from mere incarceration to rehabilitation, continuing with proper support in the community.

Simon House
January 16th 2008