XIII World Congress 2003
Education for Peace:
The Best Investment for Future Generations


Bernard Gesch - Great Britain








Bernard Gesch is a Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Physiology, University of Oxford and Director of the research charity Natural Justice, which studies causes of violence and antisocial behaviour.

A recipe for World peace:
Nutrition and social behaviour


World peace is of universal benefit but achieving it has proved to be more elusive. One such universal factor is nutrition.

Human beings are part of the food chain, not independent from it. We are thus what we eat and if we can finally accept that mind and body are not separate, a simple explanation why food may affect behaviour is found in the existence of the human brain, which like any other part of the body requires nourishment to function normally. Indeed it is possible that these changes may be altering the chemical composition of our brains.

Nutrition is a meeting point of the physical and social worlds: the hardware and software of life so to speak, where both are required for peaceful behaviour. Nutrition provides the raw materials for the normal operation of the brain and much of our social behaviour is built around eating. Nutrition thus contains aspects of both nature and nurture. Nutrition is widely accepted to influence long-term health; Yet we somehow manage to de-couple that relationship from the assumption that our behaviour is purely a matter of free will. Recently published research that demonstrates nutrition may be a causal factor in antisocial behaviour adds to doubts about the tenability of that assumption and suggests that like health, our behaviour is influenced by both social and physical factors. As the Buddha taught "Just as it is in the outer world, so it is it in the inner world."

Crime trends in the UK over the last 100 years show all forms of crime have risen enormously over that period.

If changes in our nutrition play a role in this trend, a person so affected couldn’t normally sense a lack of essential nutrients in their brain so that there could be potent effects on our behaviour that (unlike alcohol) act without our knowledge.

Nutrition has been demonstrated to significantly reduce antisocial behaviour with various degrees of sophistication from dietary education, the replacement of unhealthy snack foods in prisons, through to double blind placebo controlled studies using nutritional supplements. There is also a myriad of evidence of the role of essential nutrients in metabolic pathways that hint at how these effects occur.

If nutrition plays a causal role in our behaviour, then effects from nutrition would not only have to be in force within individuals as has been demonstrated experimentally but presumably should be capable of helping shape patterns of social behaviour. In the case of antisocial behaviour these changes are considerable and interestingly, there is evidence that major changes in nutrition have occurred over the past 50 years.

Other nutrients are refined and consumed in unprecedented quantities. Good nutrition appears to be cheap, humane and highly effective at promoting peaceful behaviour behaviour.