Omega-3s and the Brain: Fish Intake Linked to Higher IQ and Better Sleep

According to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania, published this week in Scientific Reports, children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have IQ scores that are 4.8 points higher, on average, than those who consume fish less frequently or not at all.

Previous studies showed a relationship between omega-3s, the fatty acids in many types of fish, and improved intelligence, as well as Omega-3s and better sleep. But they’ve never all been connected before. This work, conducted by Jianghong Liu, Jennifer Pinto-Martin and Alexandra Hanlon of the School of Nursing and ‘Penn Integrates Knowledge’ Professor, Adrian Raine, reveals that sleep might be the potential missing link between fish intake and intelligence.

For the study, a cohort of 541 9- to 11-year-olds in China, 54 percent boys and 46 percent girls, completed a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month, with options ranging from “never” to “at least once per week.” They also took the Chinese version of an IQ test called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised, which examines verbal and non-verbal skills such as vocabulary and coding.

“Lack of sleep is associated with antisocial behavior; poor cognition is associated with antisocial behavior,” said Raine. “We have found that Omega-3 supplements reduce antisocial behavior, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.”

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