London, Jan.29 : Oxford University scientists have suggested that a daily dose of vitamins and minerals, besides an improved diet could reduce rates of crime and anti-social behaviour by as much as a third.
According to neuro-physiologist John Stein, who was the lead author of the study, simple steps like these could make criminals less impulsive, reducing violence both inside prison and in the wider community.
Stein said that a three-year-long study to begin in May this year, will determine the accuracy of his findings.
He said that at least 1000 young male inmates in England and Scotland would be given vitamin supplements to determine if better nutrition can improve the health of their brains and help them to keep violent urges at bay.
The 1.4 million pound project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, follows controlled studies in Britain and Denmark where nutrition supplements reduced assaults, thefts and other offences among inmates in young offender institutions.
The young offenders will be taken from institutions at Hindley in Greater Manchester, Lancaster Farms in Lancashire and Polmont in Falkirk, Central Scotland. It will involve serious offenders, including killers, aged between 16 and 21.
Alongside their normal prison diet some inmates will be given placebo while others will receive the full recommended daily intake of more than 30 vitamins and minerals, plus a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which earlier studies have claimed can help to reduce aggression and mood swings.
Experts will then monitor whether those receiving the supplements experience reduced levels of violence, drug-taking and self-harm, taking into account all other relevant factors, The Telegraph reports.
If the trial is successful, Stein hopes to extend it to target crime and anti-social behaviour outside jail.
He said that nutrition was not the only key cause of crime but society may have seriously underestimated its importance as a trigger of impulsive and violent behaviour.
A pilot project ten years ago found that prisoners who took vitamin pills and other supplements committed a quarter fewer disciplinary offences and 37 per cent fewer violent offences.
Bernard Gesch, honorary director of the charity Natural Justice, who will also lead the project, said that the research could prove to be "an absolutely seminal study".
David Hanson, the Prisons Minister, said that he welcomed the study.
"I hope that it will shed further light on the possible links between nutrition and behaviour," he said.