Column Date 2006-04-23

Love is not the answer. Salmon is.

No, I am not being paid by Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks. And I own no stock in Charlie the Tuna’s parent company.

But the evidence is piling up. Researchers in several countries are coming to the conclusion that most of us came to long ago: “You are what you eat”.

And now they’re claiming what you eat helps determine how you behave. Seriously.

It started back in 2001, when Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, at the National Institutes of Health, found a correlation between eating a lot of fish (with Omega-3 fatty acids) and lower murder rates.

His theory, in laypeople’s terms: if everyone ate a nice piece of mahi-mahi, or a filet of sole, and maybe some sardines a few times a week, the murder rate will go down.

Another mad scientist with a wacky theory? Well, not long afterwards, Bernard Gesch, a researcher at Oxford University, gave a group of volunteer prisoners extra fatty acids and other dietary supplements. He found that their antisocial behavior dropped by more that 33%.

And then scientists in Finland discovered that prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes had lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood than normal, healthy people.

If this is all true, we’ve got some serious nutritional thinking to do.

Do countries start wars because they are simply eating the wrong food? After all, we don’t expect serious fish-eating countries, like Norway, Iceland, or Tahiti, to suddenly attack their neighbors.

And let’s say you’re a rabid NY Jets fan. Before you fork over hundreds of dollars for your season’s tickets, shouldn’t you demand proof that the coaching staff has eliminated fish from the team diet – that they are strictly on red meat (particularly the linebackers)?

Do you think poor nutritional advice was the reason John Kerry from Massachusetts (big fishing state), lost to George Bush from Texas (big beef producing state)? That would explain a lot.

And what about the famous “Twinkies Defense”? According to, it is: “A claim by a criminal defendant that at the time of the crime, he/she was of diminished mental capacity due to intake of too much sugar, as from eating "Twinkies," sugar-rich snacks.”

(You may remember that this defense was successfully used by former San Francisco County Supervisor Dan White, who killed two people back in 1978. The jury bought into the argument, and it got him a reduced sentence.)

With supermarket shelves loaded with sugary snacks and soft drinks, with 1/3 of our population overweight and another 1/3 clinically obese, it’s a miracle that anyone here has any mental capacity left whatsoever.

The conclusion is obvious: we really are what we eat. And maybe eating more fish is the answer (if it isn’t farm-raised, of course, and doesn’t contain too much mercury).

Mea culpa: you may have noticed that this column is shorter than usual. The reason is...well, I got tired and I couldn’t think straight any more. I take the “Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby” defense.

©2006 Peter Tannen