'Reuniting Body and Mind: Diet and Behaviour'
Bernard Gesch is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Physiology, University of Oxford and Director of the research charity Natural Justice, which investigates causes of criminal antisocial behaviour. In the late eighties he established a successful programme combining nutrition and social approaches to offending which Courts in the North of England could use as an alternative to sending persistent young offenders to prison. With the co-operation of the UK Home Office, Bernard and colleagues conducted a clinical trial to test if better nutrition could improve the behaviour of maximum-security prisoners. It did! His work has attracted in excess of 200 positive press articles worldwide. He collaborates internationally, including the Dutch Ministry of Justice. He has advised the World Health Organisation on how much global violence could be attributed to poor diet. He has been invited by the UK Home Office to design a conclusive study of the effects of diet on crime in the community and is working on further prison studies. Bernard and Natural Justice won a BBC Special Award in 2005 for the organisation that has done most to highlight the importance of diet in society.
Abstract Bernard Gesch: 'Reuniting Body and Mind: Diet and Behaviour.'
We somehow manage to de-couple the brain from behaviour by assuming that social behaviour is purely a matter of free-will. But how exactly can we exercise free-will without involving our brains? How exactly can our brain function properly without its nutrient supply? Hence a simple explanation why diet affects behaviour is found in the existence of the human brain, which like any other part of the body requires nourishment to function normally. Nutrition is a meeting point of the physical and social worlds: the hardware and software of life so to speak, in which both are required for social functioning. Crucially, the physiological requirements of our diet are likely to be the most finite component of this equation, as they are derived from our evolution. We are already aware of the perils of high dietary intakes of salt, saturated fat, hydrogenated fats and refined sugar etc but our standards of dietary adequacy have focused on health rather than considerations of brain function, cognition or behaviour. Scientists are now studying the effects of nutrient intakes in seemingly diverse conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, learning difficulties and even antisocial behaviour. These seem to have increased considerably in recent times: their positive response to improved nutrition suggests that dietary changes may be partly responsible. Could something as simple as diet make a significant difference to our behaviour. Bernard will discuss the evidence.