I am deemed, by all who know me, an exceptionally picky eater. I went into college having never tried a cheeseburger, pickles, guacamole, and plenty of other traditional favorites. Within a couple years, I was a more adventurous eater thanks to my new friends. But I’m still considered a rather picky gal, as I continue to refuse certain foods like Brussels sprouts, deviled eggs, and—most pointedly—seafood.
For whatever reason, eating fish has never appealed to me. It’s not so much the taste I despise, but rather the looks, the texture, and the very idea of eating creatures from the sea. I’ve tried my best to fight back against these conceptions, but it just hasn’t worked out. And that’s unfortunate because fish is a substantial source of protein and loaded with important nutrients like Vitamin D. As if those benefits weren’t enough, new research discovers additional benefits: this study from the University of Pennsylvania “The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption-cognitive functioning relationship: a cohort study” finds that fish consumption is linked to both better sleep quality and higher IQs.
More specifically, these researchers found that on average children who eat fish at least once a week sleep better and have significantly higher IQ scores than children who eat fish less frequently. Previous research has explored the relationship between omega-3s (fatty acids), and improved intelligence, as well as with improved sleep; however, the three have never been connected before.
To reach these findings, researchers administered a questionnaire to 541 subjects, whom were between the ages of 9 and 10, 54 percent being boys and 46 percent being girls. These participants answered questions about how often they ate fish in the past month and then went on to complete an IQ test, which is designed to examine verbal and nonverbal skills. Their parents also answered questions about their kids’ sleeping habits.
After controlling for demographics—such as parental education and occupation—the team of researchers found that the kids who reportedly ate fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests than those who said they seldom or never ate fish. Additionally, those who ate more fish experienced fewer sleep disturbances, which signifies better overall sleep quality according to the researchers.
Jennifer Pinto-Martin, executive director of University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Public Health Initiatives and Viola MacInnes/Independence Professor of Nursing explained the significance of the team’s findings: “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. Children should be introduced to it early on. Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable. It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled.”
Though the team plans on completing additional research, they currently suggest incorporating more fish into one’s diet—even eating fish once a week can prove effective, according to their findings. “If the fish improves sleep, great. If it also improves cognitive performance—like we’ve seen here—even better. It’s a double hit,” Raine said. So, although I’m still hesitant about the idea of eating fish, I’m considering introducing the food into my diet—the benefits are just too good to pass up.
University of Pennsylvania (2018, January 2). Weekly Fish Consumption Linked to Better Sleep and Higher IQ. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved January 2, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/fish-sleep-iq-8248/
Liu, J., Cui, Y., Wu, L., Hanlon, A., Pinto-Martin, J., Raine, A., & Hibbeln, J. R. (2017, December 21). The mediating role of sleep in the fish consumption-cognitive functioning relationship. Scientific Reports. Retrieved on January 2, 2017 from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-17520-w