Fish May Be Good for the Growing Brain

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Children who eat fish tend to sleep better and score higher on IQ tests, a new study has found.

Using self-administered questionnaires, researchers collected information on fish consumption among 541 Chinese boys and girls ages 9 to 11. Parents reported their children’s sleep duration, how often they awoke at night, daytime sleepiness and other sleep patterns. At age 12, the children took IQ tests.

Compared to the one-quarter of children who ate fish twice a month or less, those who had it twice a week or more scored an average of 4.8 points higher on IQ tests.

The study, in Scientific Reports, also found that the more fish a child ate, the fewer his or her sleep problems. There may be a chain of effects: fish consumption is associated with better sleep, and better sleep is associated with better cognitive performance. The study controlled for sex, parental education, maternal age at childbirth, breast-feeding duration and other factors.

“Fish helps with sleep, and this results in higher IQ,” said the lead author, Jianghong Liu, a professor in the school of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania. “If parents want their kids to be healthy and high performing in school, they should put fish on the table.”