FEEDING inmates a diet rich in omega 3 fish oils might make prisons easier to manage, if a pilot study being carried out at the South Coast Correctional Centre in Nowra is successful.
Undertaken by researchers from the University of Wollongong with the co-operation of Corrective Services NSW, the study will test findings of an earlier British study that found young offenders at a maximum security institution who were fed fish oil and multivitamin supplements showed a 35 per cent reduction in offences.
More than 130 South Coast inmates have signed up to the Omega Man study, which began in July and will wrap up at the end of November.
Most of the inmates in the study are being fed fish oil and multivitamin and minerals supplements for the study period while prison staff record their involvement in major or minor incidents. (A control group will be fed a placebo.)
“We have access to that data,” said nutrition expert and project leader associate professor Barbara Meyer.
“In addition, we’re also looking at getting the prisoners to fill out two psychological questionnaires on aggression and attention deficit.
“The attention deficit questionnaire is similar to one used for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but validated for adults.”
The study will take regular blood samples to confirm the prisoners are taking the supplements.
“They’re all very keen and very polite, which is great,” Professor Meyer said.
Professor Meyer has teamed up with director of the Shoalhaven Marine and Freshwater Centre Dr Pia Winberg.
Once the study is complete, funding will be sought for an extended multi-centre trial.
“Only a larger study can confirm the benefits of diet supplements across different contexts, cultures and environments,” Professor Meyer said.
Corrective Services will be taking a keen interest in the result.
“The study will help us understand whether omega-3 fats and multivitamin supplements are associated with a reduction in antisocial behaviour and particularly in displays of aggressive behaviour,” said Corrective Services assistant commission of strategic planning and policy Luke Grant.
“The interface between biology and human behaviour is an emerging area of interest for corrections as we pursue our goal to reduce reoffending.”