Food and Behaviour Research

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Increasing homicide rates and linoleic acid consumption among five Western countries, 1961-2000.

Hibbeln, J.R., Nieminen, L.R., Lands, W.E. (2004) Lipids 39(12) 1207-13. 

Web URL: View this abstract via PubMed here


Clinical intervention trials and animal studies indicate that increasing dietary intakes of long chain n-3 FA or reducing linoleic acid intake may reduce aggressive and violent behaviors. Here we examine if economic measures of greater n-6 consumption across time and countries correlate with greater risk of homicide. Linoleic acid available for human consumption was calculated from World Health Organization disappearance data for 12 major seed oils in the food supply for the years 1961 to 2000 in Argentina, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States (US). Homicide mortality rates, adjusted for age, were obtained from the central judicial authority of each country. Apparent linoleic acid intake from seed oil sources ranged from 0.29 en% (percentage of daily food energy) (Australia 1962) to 8.3 en% (US 1990s). Greater apparent consumption of linoleic acid correlated with higher rates of homicide mortality over a 20-fold range (0.51-10.2/100,000) across countries and time in an exponential growth regression model (r = 0.94, F = 567, P < 0.00001). Within each country, correlations between greater linoleic acid disappearance and homicide mortality over time were significant in linear regression models. Randomized controlled trials are needed to determine if reducing high intakes of linoleic acid by seed oils with alternative compositions can reduce the risk of violent behaviors. These dietary interventions merit exploration as relatively cost-effective measures for reducing the pandemic of violence in Western societies, just as dietary interventions are reducing cardiovascular mortality. Low linoleate diets may prevent behavioral maladies that correctional institutions, social service programs, and mental health providers intend to treat.