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Omega-3 supplementation in young offenders: a randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial

Abstract

Objectives

To examine whether omega-3 supplementation reduces antisocial and aggressive behavior in offenders.

Methods

In this randomized, double-blind trial, 145 young offenders were randomized into three groups: omega-3 (N = 48), placebo (N = 46), and treatment-as-usual controls (N = 51). Measures of antisocial, aggressive, and psychopathic behavior were collected at 0 months (baseline), 3 months (end of treatment), 6 months (3 months post-treatment), and 12 months (9 months post-treatment).

Results

Omega-3 supplementation resulted in both short-term and long-term declines in self-reported antisocial and aggressive behavior. Findings were stronger for a reactive-impulsive form of aggression than for proactive aggression and psychopathy. Sensitivity analyses documented long-term reductions at 6 and 12 months in the omega-3 group for officer reports.

Conclusions

Results suggest that omega-3 supplementation can help reduce antisocial and aggressive behavior over and above regular treatment programs in young offender institutions, particularly for reactive, impulsive aggression.

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Acknowledgements

This study was made possible with the approval of the Singapore Prison Service. We wish to thank Fann Jiang, Lee Kit Ying, and Doris Chia for their assistance in data collection and data cleaning.

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Correspondence to Adrian Raine.

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Raine, A., Leung, CC., Singh, M. et al. Omega-3 supplementation in young offenders: a randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. J Exp Criminol 16, 389–405 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-019-09394-x

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Keywords

  • Omega-3
  • Antisocial
  • Reactive aggression
  • Offenders
  • Psychopathy
  • Randomized controlled trial