Ivy League researchers advise parents to incorporate fish into their children's diets after a study found a weekly fish regimen is linked with higher IQs and better sleep.
University of Pennsylvania researchers analyzed the IQs, fish-eating habits and sleeping patterns of more than 500 Chinese children aged 9 to 11. They found children who ate fish weekly scored nearly five points higher on IQ tests than those who never or seldom ate fish. Children who had fish sometimes had a roughly three-IQ-point advantage over those who didn't or rarely ate it.
The research team of Jianghong Liu, Jennifer Pinto-Martin, Alexandra Hanlon and Adrian Raine said the finding builds on existing research about the positive effects of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s, which are found in fish, have been tied to intelligence and sleep independently, but "they've never all been connected before," a university statement read.
Raine, a professor in the school's Penn Integrates Knowledge program, calls it a "double hit" of benefits. Liu, Pinto-Martin and Hanlon are part of the Penn School of Nursing.
The research, published Dec. 21 in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, also quizzed parents on their children's quality of sleep, including how often they wake in the middle of the night and "daytime sleepiness." It found, "increased fish consumption was associated with fewer disturbances of sleep."
Researcher Pinot-Martin said parents could give children fish as young as 10 months old and should start by about 2. For infants, she said, make sure the fish is finely chopped and has no bones.
"Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable," Pinot-Martin said. "It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests pregnant woman and children should eat anywhere from one to three servings of fish each week.