Does Eating Fish Make Kids Smarter?

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | April 3, 2018

We have known for some time that fish consumption is associated with improved cognition in children, but we have not been able to clearly pinpoint the exact biochemical cause of this. We’ve always assumed that the omega-3 content in fatty fish has a positive effect on the way the brain processes information.

Now, based on a study published in the Scientific Reports, we have a deeper understanding of the causal relationship between fish consumption and improved sleep quality. These results are interesting because they shed light on the importance of sleep in relation to improved cognition, with the consumption of fish being a beneficial factor in improved sleep quality.

This particular study looked at fish consumption in over 500 children and its link to improved sleep and higher IQ scores. Frequent fish consumption was related to fewer sleep problems, hence deeper and more restorative sleep. The study also found that the more fish consumed and the more frequent the intake of fish was, the better quality of sleep the children had and the higher they scored on IQ tests.

Omega-3 fatty acids are what we refer to as “good fats”. These healthy fats have been linked to many health benefits including decreased risk of coronary heart disease, depression and Alzheimer’s, as well as reduced cognitive decline and arthritis-related pain and improved cognitive and academic performance in adolescents.

Sleep is notably related to cognitive function in both children and adults, with many studies proving the negative effects that lack of sleep and poor quality of sleep have.

More research will be conducted to further support this research and to delve deeper into the process that omega-3 fatty acids follow to induce good quality sleep and, therefore, cognition. For now, we have enough information to safely and optimistically increase the consumption of fish among both children and adults!

To make the most out of the health benefits fish consumption has to offer, enjoy responsibly-sourced fish in moderation and in conjunction with a nutritious and balanced diet.


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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