The consumption of fish is linked to a number of health benefits as they provide essential nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids which the body is unable to produce on its own. Fish is eaten around the world in many different forms.
The latest research on eating fish has connected it to a further interesting health advantage. A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania observed children who had fish at least once a week in their diets.
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The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports and showed that children who had fish weekly in their diets had improved cognition, better sleep, and a higher IQ which was on average four points higher in comparison with the ones who did not have fish that frequently.
How does this work?
Previous studies on the matter had mainly focused on the relationship between Omega-3 fatty acids and increased intelligence in many types of fish as well as improvements in sleep caused by Omega-3 fatty acids.
However, what was missing in all of the studies was the connection between the three – sleep, intelligence, and Omega-3 fatty acids. The research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has successfully shed light on a potential link between these three.
It has highlighted that the improved sleep patterns caused by Omega-3 fatty acids in the fish might be the main factor leading to higher intelligence. Putting it simply, sleep might be the previously undiscovered link between sleep and intelligence.
The study was conducted by looking at a group of 541 children between the ages of 9-11 in China who were asked about how often did they consume fish. 54% of the children were boys while 46% of the children were girls.
The children also took the Chinese intelligence test or what is also known as Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised that takes into accounts both the verbal and non-verbal intelligence like coding of the children.
Using the Standard Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire, the parents of the children were asked about the sleeping habits of their child.
The last thing that the researchers looked at was demographic information that includes the number of children in the house, parental occupation, marital status, and occupation.
What was the conclusion of the researchers?
The team took into account all of the results and concluded that the children who had fish weekly had a 4.8 higher IQ than the ones who had it once in a while or not at all. Additionally, the children who took fish sometimes as a meal had a 3.3 higher IQ level.
The consumption of fish was also seen to help in disturbed sleep patterns. Children who had fish often were shown to have the generally better quality of sleep daily than those who did not.
Generally, the past studies on sleep and life have shown that lack of sleep or poor sleep can lead to antisocial behavior, reduced work performance, inability to concentrate, and all of which is linked to poor cognition.
The previous studies have also shown improvements in sleep patterns due to Omega-3 fatty acids supplements. So, the higher consumption of fish and better sleep, as well as intelligence, is no surprise to the researchers.
The recent study by researchers at Penn is significant because of its strong implications as it can be added to the evidence for an early introduction to fish and its health benefits for the children as young as two years old.
In addition, the researchers in the study have also encouraged the early consumption of fish especially in the cultures where it is not that common since it can help the children develop the taste and get used to the smell.
Many children find it hard to add fish to their diets as they grow up because they are not used to the texture, tastes and especially the smell that comes from it and they end up missing out on many health advantages it has to offer.
At the moment, the researchers have suggested starting with introducing a small amount of fish in the diet and not just start giving fish to children five days a week. Having fish once a week is enough and actually a lot more than usual for many families.
Adding fish to the diet can lead to better sleep and improved school results as well as better health in general.