Credit: © nadianb / Fotolia

Credit: © nadianb / Fotolia

Eating fish is linked to better sleep and higher IQ

Eating fish is linked to better sleep and higher IQ, according to the latest research from the University of Pennsylvania.

According to the new study, children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better have IQ scores of 4 points higher on average.

Some studies have linked omega-3 consumption to better intelligence and to better sleep, but none have connected all of these benefits together.

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

After analyzing their study data, the researchers found that children who reported eating fish once a week scored 4.8 points higher on IQ exams than those who reported less fish consumption or none at all. Those who had an occasional amount of fish in their diet scored 3.4 points higher on the exam.

Fish consumption was also linked to less sleep disturbances, which researchers say speaks to better overall sleep quality.

Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behavior; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behavior,” said Professor Adrian Raine, who has appointments in the School of Arts and Sciences and Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. “We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behavior, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.”

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, 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.

Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable,” Pinto-Martin said. “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.”

The study showing that eating fish is linked to better sleep and higher IQ was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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1. “Weekly Fish Consumption Linked to Better Sleep, Higher IQ, Penn Study Finds.” Penn News, Penn State University, 21 Dec. 2017,

2. “The Mediating Role of Sleep in the Fish Consumption – Cognitive Functioning Relationship: a Cohort Study.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 21 Dec. 2017,
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