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Your Environment. Your Health.

Eating Fish Linked to Better Sleep and Higher IQ in Children

Jianghong Liu, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania
R01ES018858, K02ES019878, K01ES015877, P30ES013508

An NIEHS-funded study found that children eating fish at least once a week slept better and had higher IQ scores than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all. Studies have separately linked improved intelligence and better sleep with consumption of omega-3s — the fatty acids found in many types of fish. However, this study is one of the first to show that sleep may be the link between fish consumption and improved long-term brain function in children.

The new study is based on data from 541 9- to 11-year-olds in China. The children completed a questionnaire about their fish consumption and took an IQ test. Their parents also answered questions about sleep quality using a standardized questionnaire. The analysis controlled for factors such as parental education, occupation, and marital status as well as the number of children in the home.

The researchers found that children who reported eating fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ exam than those who seldom or never consumed fish. Those whose meals sometimes included fish scored 3.3 points higher. The study suggested that frequent fish consumption may improve sleep quality, which, in turn, leads to better long-term cognitive outcomes.

Citation: Liu J, Cui Y, Li L, Wu L, Hanlon A, Pinto-Martin J, Raine A, Hibbeln JR. 2017. The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption - cognitive functioning relationship: a cohort study. Sci Rep. 7(1):17961.

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