Weekly Fish Consumption Linked to Better Sleep, Higher IQ

Source: University of Pennsylvania

Summary: A new study connecting the three: fish-cognition-sleep. Regular fish consumption at least once a week helps to improve cognition and sleep better.

Previous research showed a relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and improved intelligence as well as omega-3s and better sleep. But all the three were never connected before. Omega -3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids and are primarily found in certain fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines). The two crucial omega-3s include Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A new study done by the researchers from the University of Pennsylvania connected the three: fish-cognition-sleep and found that children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have IQ scores that are 4 points higher, on average, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all. The study findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Omega 3 consumption is linked to better sleep, which may explain the higher IQ in kids who eat fish at least once a week.Credit: CC0 Public Domain

For the study, a cohort of 541 ranging from 9 to 11 years old children in China, 54% boys and 46% girls, completed a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month, with options ranging from “never” to “at least once per week.” They also took the Chinese version of an IQ test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. Their parents then answered questions about sleep quality using the standardized Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire. Analyzing the data points, the research team found that children who reported eating fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ exams than those who said they “seldom” or “never” consumed fish.  In addition, increased fish consumption was associated with fewer disturbances of sleep, which the researchers say indicates better sleep quality.

The executive director of Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives Jennifer A. Pinto-Martin 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.” 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.

More Information: Jianghong Liu et al, “The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption – cognitive functioning relationship: a cohort study” Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-17520-w

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