Saturday, March 29, 2008

Incarceration and the American diet

New statistics show that 1 in 100 Americans is locked up in jail. For young African-American males, the ratio is an astounding 1 in 9 -- the highest for any demographic anywhere in the world. Could the fact America has such an obscenely high portion of its citizens imprisoned be related to the lousy American diet? To the fact many Americans of low income status -- including black males -- consume a diet consisting largely of junk and processed foods?

In an effort to explain the high rate of incarceration in the US, the "War on Drugs" is often cited. In the US many Americans face long prison sentences for relatively minor drug offenses. Some claim these laws penalized African-Americans unfairly (criminal penalties for possession of crack have been much harsher than those for cocaine). But why do so many Americans turn to drugs in the first place?

Self-medication is a commonly cited explanation. Could the insatiable appetite of Americans to to self-medicate -- to turn to drugs to improve their state of mind -- be linked to the nutrient-poor American diet which consists largely of processed foods? Crime and drug use both contribute to America's high incarceration rates. And both are likely linked to the lousy diets of many low-income Americans.
More about the suspected link between crime and diet here.

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