Skip to main content
Log in

Omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation to reduce recidivism: a pilot study

  • Published:
Journal of Experimental Criminology Aims and scope Submit manuscript



While three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been conducted using omega-3 supplementation on prison populations, none have examined effects on recidivism. This study presents pilot findings on recidivism rates following omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation.


Young offenders (N = 145) were randomized into 3 groups: omega-3/vitamin D supplementation (N = 48), placebo (N = 46), and treatment-as-usual controls (N = 51). One-, two-, and three-year recidivism rates were calculated.


The omega-3 group showed non-significantly reduced recidivism rates compared to both control groups in all three years. Three-year recidivism reduction effect sizes were as follows: omega-3 versus controls (d = .18) and omega-3 versus placebo (d = .17).


A future study with a sample size of 237 would have a power of .80 to detect these effect sizes. These pilot data suggest that omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation, a simple and relatively cheap health intervention, could reduce 3-year recidivism by 16.6%.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

Data availability

Data are available for the purpose of cross-checking findings upon reasonable request by contacting the lead authors.


  • Beaudry, G., Yu, R. Q., Perry, A. E., & Fazel, S. (2021). Effectiveness of psychological interventions in prison to reduce recidivism: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Lancet Psychiatry, 8(9), 759–773.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Borenstein, M., Cooper, H., Hedges, L., & Valentine, J. (2009). Effect sizes for continuous data. The Handbook of Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis, 2, 221–235.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borum, R., Bartel, P., & Forth, A. (2006). Manual for the structured assessment for violence risk in youth (SAVRY). Odessa: P. A. Resources.

    Google Scholar 

  • Choy, O., & Raine, A. (2018). Omega-3 supplementation as a dietary intervention to reduce aggressive and antisocial behavior. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20(5).

  • Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darcey, V. L., McQuaid, G. A., Fishbein, D. H., & VanMeter, J. W. (2020). Relationship between whole blood omega-3 fatty acid levels and dorsal cingulate gray matter volume: Sex differences and implications for impulse control. Nutritional Neuroscience, 23(7), 505–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A.-G. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G* Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149–1160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gajos, J. M., & Beaver, K. M. (2016). The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on aggression: A meta-analysis. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 69, 147–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gesch, C. B. (2011). The influence of micronutrient intake on antisocial behaviours. University College Cork.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gesch, C. B., Hammond, S. M., Hampson, S. E., Eves, A., & Crowder, M. J. (2002). Influence of supplementary vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids on the antisocial behaviour of young adult prisoners: Randomised, placebo- controlled trial. British Journal of Psychiatry, 181(1), 22–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glenn, A. L., & Raine, A. (2014). Neurocriminology: Implications for the punishment, prediction and prevention of criminal behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 15(1), 54–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Groves, N. J., McGrath, J. J., & Burne, T. H. (2014). Vitamin D as a neurosteroid affecting the developing and adult brain. Annual Review of Nutrition, 34, 117–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kalueff, A. V., & Tuohimaa, P. (2007). Neurosteroid hormone vitamin D and its utility in clinical nutrition. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 10(1), 12–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leutgeb, V., Leitner, M., Wabnegger, A., Klug, D., Scharmüller, W., Zussner, T., & Schienle, A. (2015). Brain abnormalities in high-risk violent offenders and their association with psychopathic traits and criminal recidivism. Neuroscience, 308, 194–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McNamara, R. K., Asch, R. H., Lindquist, D. M., & Krikorian, R. (2018). Role of polyunsaturated fatty acids in human brain structure and function across the lifespan: An update on neuroimaging findings. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 136, 23–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McNamara, R. K., & Carlson, S. E. (2006). Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function: Potential implications for the pathogenesis and prevention of psychopathology. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 75(4–5), 329–349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nasir, M., & Bloch, M. H. (2019). Trim the fat: the role of omega-3 fatty acids in psychopharmacology. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 9.

  • National Institute of Health (2022). Vitamin D: Factsheet for health professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from: Accessed 12 Aug 2022.

  • Portnoy, J., Raine, A., Liu, J. H., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2018). Reductions of intimate partner violence resulting from supplementing children with omega-3 fatty acids: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Aggressive Behavior, 44(5), 491–500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Price, D. D., Finniss, D. G., & Benedetti, F. (2008). A comprehensive review of the placebo effect: Recent advances and current thought. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 565–590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raine, A., Ang, R. P., Choy, O., Hibbeln, J. R., Ho, R. M. H., Lim, C. G., Lim-Ashworth, N. S. J., Ling, S., Liu, J. C. J., Ooi, Y. P., Tan, Y. R., & Fung, D. S. S. (2019). Omega-3 (w-3) and social skills interventions for reactive aggression and childhood externalizing behavior problems: A randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, factorial trial. Psychological Medicine, 49(2), 335–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raine, A., Cheney, R. A., Ho, R. G., Portnoy, J., Liu, J. L., Soyfer, L., Hibbeln, J., & Richmond, T. S. (2016). Nutritional supplementation to reduce child aggression: A randomized, stratified, single-blind, factorial trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(9), 1038–1046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raine, A., Fung, A. L. C., Gao, Y., & Lee, T. M. C. (2021). Omega-3 supplementation, child antisocial behavior, and psychopathic personality: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel group trial. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(2), 303–312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raine, A., Leung, C. C., Singh, M., & Kaur, J. (2020). Omega-3 supplementation in young offenders: A randomized, stratified, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 16(3), 389–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raine, A., Portnoy, J., Liu, J. H., Mahoomed, T., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2015). Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8–16 years: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(5), 509–520.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yang, Y., & Raine, A. (2009). Prefrontal structural and functional brain imaging findings in antisocial, violent, and psychopathic individuals: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 174(2), 81–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zaalberg, A., Nijman, H., Bulten, E., Stroosma, L., & van der Staak, C. (2010). Effects of nutritional supplements on aggression, rule-breaking, and psychopathology among young adult prisoners. Aggressive Behavior, 36(2), 117–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Adrian Raine or Olivia Choy.

Additional information

Publisher's note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Adrian Raine and Olivia Choy have equal first-authorship.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Raine, A., Choy, O., Leung, CC. et al. Omega-3 and vitamin D supplementation to reduce recidivism: a pilot study. J Exp Criminol (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: