Now there is more reason to add fish to your family’s weekly meal plan – it could make your kids sleep better at night and boost their IQs.

Children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have higher IQs by an average of four points, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all.

This is according to new findings from the University of Pennsylvania.

Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as better sleep. But they’ve never all been connected before.

This work reveals sleep as a possible mediating pathway, the potential missing link between fish and intelligence.

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“This area of research is not well-developed. It’s emerging,” says Jianghong 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.”

Related: What are omega-3 deficiency symptoms?

Over 500 children studied

For the study 541 nine to 11-year-olds in China completed a questionnaire about how often they had consumed fish in the past month.

The children took the Chinese version of an IQ test and their parents answered questions about sleep quality.

After analysing all the data, researchers found the following:

  • 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.
  • Those whose meals sometimes included fish scored 3,3 points higher.
  • Increased fish consumption was associated with fewer disturbances of sleep, which the researchers say indicates better overall sleep quality.

Children should be introduced to fish as young as 10 months, as long as the fish has no bones and has been finely chopped

“Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behaviour; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behaviour,” says one of the researchers, Professor Adrian Raine. “We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behaviour, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.”

Pinto-Martin, who is executive director of Penn’s Centre for Public Health Initiatives, sees strong potential for the implications of this research.

“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,” she said. “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.

Source: University of Pennsylvania via

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