Eating fish once a week is linked to higher IQs and better sleep, new research finds.
This study is one of the first to provide more concrete links between omega-3 fatty acids and improved intelligence and sleep.
Dr Jianghong Liu, the study’s first author, said:
“This area of research is not well-developed.
Here we look at omega-3s coming from our food instead of from supplements.”
For the study, the researchers followed 541 children aged 9-11 in China.
Children who reported eating fish once a week had almost 5 IQ points more than those who ate little or none.
More fish was also linked to fewer sleep disturbances.
Professor Adrian Raine, study co-author, said:
“Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behavior; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behavior.
We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behavior, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.”
Professor Jennifer Pinto-Martin, study co-author, said:
“It adds to the growing body of evidence showing that fish consumption has really positive health benefits and should be something more heavily advertised and promoted.
Children should be introduced to it early on.
Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable.
It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled.
Children are sensitive to smell.
If they’re not used to it, they may shy away from it.”
Small increases in the amount of fish consumed could be beneficial to families.
Professor Raine said:
“Doing that could be a lot easier than nudging children about going to bed.
If the fish improves sleep, great. If it also improves cognitive performance — like we’ve seen here — even better. It’s a double hit.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Liu et al., 2017).