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Weekly Fish Consumption Tied to Better Sleep and Higher IQ


A study from the University of Pennsylvania finds children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have a higher IQ.

Earlier research shows a link between omega-3 fatty acids, contained in many types of fish, and improved cognitive function; but the physiological effects responsible for the link haven’t been defined. The researchers postulate that improved sleep might be the factor that mediates the benefits of fish on cognition.

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​​​​​​​“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.”

In the study, 541 children in China between the ages of 9 and 11 answered a questionnaire regarding their frequency of fish consumption within the past month. They were also administered an intelligence test examining verbal and nonverbal skills such as coding and vocabulary. In addition, their parents completed surveys about sleep habits.

Data analysis showed the children who ate fish every week scored 4.8 points higher on IQ tests than those who seldom or never ate fish. Those who reported sometimes eating fish scored 3.3 points higher. Moreover increased fish consumption was linked to better sleep quality.

Study Recommends Introducing Fish to Children Early

Researcher Jennifer Pinto-Martin, who is executive director of Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives, as well as the Viola MacInnes/Independence Professor of Nursing and a professor of epidemiology in Penn Medicine, discussed the implications.

“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.  “Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable. It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled. Children are sensitive to smell. If they’re not used to it, they may shy away from it.”

In the future, Liu and the team plan to conduct randomized controlled trials to determine if eating fish can lead to better sleep and school performance. Meanwhile, they recommend gradually incorporating more fish into the diet. The children in the study who were in the high fish-eating group ate it at least once a week.

“Doing that could be a lot easier than nudging children about going to bed,” said researcher Adrian Raine, Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor. “If the fish improves sleep, great. If it also improves cognitive performance — like we’ve seen here — even better. It’s a double hit.”

The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Looking for a delicious and easy salmon recipe? Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of and best-selling author of Eat Dirt shared a scrumptious salmon recipe with Live in the Now. Click the link below to check it out.

Recipe: Simply Delicious BBQ Salmon


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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