If you are not used to giving your children fish to eat maybe for fear of choking on a bone, you may have to reconsider it.
A new research has revealed that eating fish once a week boosts children’s intelligence and leads to better sleep.
Fish was also found to reduce anti-social behaviour and improve cognitive performance.
The study showed children who eat fish once a week score nearly five points higher than average in IQ tests, compared with those who do not eat it at all or consume it less frequently.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania asked 541 pupils in China, aged between nine and 11, to fill in a questionnaire about how often they consumed fish in the past month. The questionnaire did not specify types of fish.
Parents were asked about the children’s sleep quality, including length of time asleep, how often they woke during a night and daytime tiredness.
Their IQ was investigated by assessing their arithmetic, vocabulary and understanding of information, as well as their ability to arrange images and sort codes.
The team found that children who reported eating fish weekly scored 4.8 points higher in the IQ tests than those who never eat seafood or do so less than once a month. Children who eat fish two-to-three times a month scored up to 3.31 points more.
The research adds that frequently eating fish also makes children less likely to wake in the night, be tired during the day and resist going to bed.
Study co-author Dr Jennifer Pinto-Martin said: “These findings add 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 fish early on. Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable. Children are sensitive to smell. If they’re not used to it, they may shy away from it.”
Previous studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can improve intelligence and sleep, and that better sleep improves IQ. But it is the first time all three have been linked together.
The scientists believe that it may be that the improved sleep produced by omega-3s is what is boosting IQ rather than the fatty acids themselves.
Study author Professor Adrian Raine from the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Lack of sleep and poor cognition are both associated with anti-social behaviour.
“We have found that omega-3 supplements reduce anti-social behaviour, so it’s not too surprising that fish is behind this.
“If fish improves sleep, great. If it also improves cognitive performance – like we’ve seen here – even better. It’s a double hit.”
The researchers suggest fish should be part of youngsters’ diets by two years old but children as young as 10 months could also eat fish as long as it contains no bones and is chopped into small pieces.
The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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