Feeding kids fish helps promote both better learning and healthy sleep through the night
A new University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study found that children who ate fish regularly scored nearly five points higher on a standard IQ test that measures cognitive function in children. The kids who favored fish over traditionally kid-friendly items like, say, chicken fingers and fries, also slept better and had fewer sleep interruptions.
The study of 541 boys and girls in China, ages 9 to 11, who completed a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month, was published Dec. 21 in Scientific Reports.
The results found that those who said they ate fish once a week scored 4.8 points higher on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale IQ test than those who seldom or never included fish in their diets.
“This area of research is not welldeveloped. It’s emerging,” said Jianghong Liu, the lead author on the paper and an associate professor of nursing and public health, told the school’s Penn News. “Here we look at omega-3s coming from our food instead of from supplements.”
Even these children who ate fish only occasionally benefited with better verbal and non-verbal skills and scored an average of 3.3 IQ points higher than those who turned their noses up at fish. The link between omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish — but not all kinds of fish — and better brain function has been found in many studies over the years.
However, Sheah Rarback, a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, questions the Pennsylvania study’s conclusions. She said the study of these kids who kept a food diary and took an IQ test should not be considered cause and effect — as in an eat-fishand-you’ll-be-smarter certainty.
“You have to be careful to say ‘eating fish will cause better intelligence.’ It’s an association. There could be other things factoring in there so it’s not cause and effect,” Rarback said.
“That said, fish is a good, nutritious, lean protein for kids and adults,” Rarback said. “They are probably zeroing in on the omega-3 fatty acids. There are fish that have higher amounts and, of these, is a fish kids love — tuna. Tuna is a great source of lean protein.”
The study’s results didn’t surprise Rarback, though. “This is not surprising because omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated in the brain and play a role in brain neurological function. So I would say this is an interesting study. But it’s association, not cause and effect.”
Other fish that are high in the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are salmon and sardines. Since most kids like tuna, that’s an easy dish to serve in sandwiches, salads or by itself. Salmon burgers could also be a healthy and enticing option for kids.
“Fish oils are also very good anti-inflammatories and so many root causes of disease are inflammation. So you can’t lose by eating more fish. But what I say is important, particularly with kids with developing brains, is to go for lower mercury fish,” Rarback cautions.
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Do each move for 40 seconds, resting for 10 seconds as you transition to the Push Move. Do the Push Move for 20 seconds after each exercise, resting for 5 seconds before starting the next move. Do the circuit twice.
Half jack with knee lift: Stand tall with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Hop your feet apart and raise one knee toward your chest. Reverse the move and repeat on the opposite side.
Start smart: If this move is too hard on the knees, simply step side to side.
Long jump: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your abs engaged. Bend your knees and swing your arms behind you, then swing your arms overhead and jump forward as far as you can with both feet. Land softly in a squat, keeping