Study: Eat Fish for a Better Brain and Sleep
How often do you eat fish? You might want to up your intake. Because new research
from the University of Pennsylvania has found that eating fish regularly not only boost the brain – it also helps you sleep better.
This is the first study connecting fish intake with improved sleep and cognition. In fact, it found that eating fish at least once a week can increase your IQ by around four points!
Published in Scientific Reports journal, the study reveals that sleep could be the missing link between fish consumption and intelligence.
"This area of research is not well-developed. It's emerging," said lead author Jianghong Liu. "Here we look at omega-3s coming from our food instead of from supplements."
How was the discovery made?
A group of 541 children in China aged 9-11 took part in the study. They filled out a questionnaire on their fish consumption. They also took an IQ test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised. It covers a range of verbal and non-verbal skills.
The children’s parents then used the Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire to rate their children’s sleep quality.
The research team then analysed the data. They discovered that kids who ate fish each week scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests, compared to children who rarely or never ate fish.
On top of that, fish eaters had a better quality of sleep, with fewer disturbances in the night.
Fish, sleep and smarts
So why is there a connection between fish, intelligence and sleep? Co-author Adrian Raine explains:
“Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behaviour; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behaviour.
“We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behaviour, so it's not too surprising that fish is behind this."
How much fish should kids eat?
Co-author Jennifer Pinto-Martin says “children should be introduced to [fish] early on. That could be as young as 10 months, as long as the fish has no bones and has been finely chopped, but should start by around age 2.”
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."
If you’re concerned about your child’s fish intake, have a chat with a health professional, nutritionist or dietician.
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