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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Diet and bad behaviour
More or Less
Monday, 23 October, 2006
BBC Radio 4, 1630 BST

More or Less returned this week on a new day at a new time, Monday at 1630 BST, for the reliable mixture of investigation and insight.

Click here to have your say

This week, we looked at the statistical quality of the study which made headlines last week exploring the relationship between diet and crime.

Prisoners given nutritional supplements in an experiment at Aylesbury prison, sharply reduced their bad and violent behaviour compared with those who were given a placebo.

Two facts stand out about that research (led by Bernard Gesch and John Stein, physiologists from Oxford University):

1) That it was published in 2002, but it is alleged that the results were known to the Home Office in 1998, about eight years ago and that nothing much seems to have been done with it.

2) It was, statistically speaking, a study of very high quality.

That does not mean it is a definitive answer to whether diet affects criminal behaviour, but it makes a good case, says presenter Andrew Dilnot, for taking the research seriously.

This is particularly so, given that many other Home Office crime reduction initiatives seem, in some cases by its own admission and often in the view of outside critics, to be poorly evaluated, so that we do not even know if they do any good.

So why was this one apparently left to gather dust, while other programmes, with weaker evidence, were pursued?

You can hear our attempt to find an answer in the programme.

Economic perceptions

We also looked this week at whether the bleak impression sometimes gained of the economic performance of the French economy - all riots, long lunches, red tape and farmer with one cow each - is justified, particularly when compared unfavourably with the United States.

And the way that measuring what people do has the unfortunate effect of changing what they do.

Presenter: Andrew Dilnot
Producer: Michael Blastland

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