An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but one seafood meal per week could provide lifelong benefits including a higher IQ and better sleep. A new study conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrated a clear link between the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids — most commonly found in fish — and heightened intelligence, as well as higher quality sleep.
The research was largely based on a huge sample study of over 500 children between the ages of 9 and 11. The children, of whom 54% were boys and 46% girls, provided information on their eating habits, including how often they consumed fish. Then they were asked to take an IQ test, and when the resulting data was matched up with their questionnaire responses, it became clear that a link exists between higher IQ and consumption of fish.
Similarly, the parents of the children in the study were asked to submit answers regarding each child’s sleep quality. The length of sleep, frequency of daytime napping, and other factors were included in the questionnaire. The data supported the notion that omega-3s, even when only consumed occasionally, do promote better sleep.
The study builds upon past research into omega-3s that linked the fatty acids to better quality sleep and higher intelligence, though no previous studies managed to link them all together at once.
“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,” Penn’s Jennifer Pinto-Martin, a professor of epidemiology, said. “Children should be introduced to it early on.”
In the future, the researchers hope to expand on their findings by diving deeper into the types of fish that seem to be most beneficial, while also performing “randomized controlled trials” to see what other benefits high consumption of omega-3s can provide.
What’s particularly important about this study is that the information is actionable, and increasing your consumption of fish (and omega-3s in general) is a relatively painless process. Even just one meal of fish per week seems to be enough to prompt big gains, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer.