Scientists find the link between eating fish at least once a week and better sleep and IQ scores among children, according to an article published in journal Nature in December 2017.
Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as omega-3s and better sleep. However, this new study reveals sleep as a possible mediating pathway, the potential missing link between fish and intelligence.
“This area of research is not well-developed. It’s emerging,” said Liu, lead author on the paper and an associate professor of nursing and public health. “Here we look at omega-3s coming from our food instead of from supplements.”
11-year-olds in China, 54 percent boys and 46 percent girls, completed a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month and they also took an IQ test to examine verbal and non-verbal skills such as vocabulary and coding.
Their parents then answered questions about sleep quality, including such as sleep duration and frequency of night waking or daytime sleepiness. Finally, the researchers controlled for demographic information, including parental education, occupation and marital status and number of children in the home.
The team found that children who reported eating fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ exams than those who did not or rarely did.
“Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behavior; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behavior,” said Raine, who has appointments in the School of Arts and Sciences and Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. “We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behavior, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.”
For the moment, the researchers recommend incrementally incorporating additional fish into a diet; consumption even once a week moves a family into the “high” fish-eating group as defined in the study.
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