Call 413.540.1234 to
schedule an appointment
CONCERN/EAP: 413.534.2625
Billing questions? Call: 413.540.1212
CRISIS: 413.733.6661

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Resources
Basic InformationMore InformationLatest News
Kids Get Caught in Deadly Cross-Fire of Domestic ViolenceTwo Factors at Birth Can Boost a Child's Obesity RiskCDC Probe Continues as Cases of Polio-Like Illness Rise in KidsHealth Tip: Limit Fat, Sugar and Salt in Your Child's DietSome Activity Fine for Kids Recovering From Concussions, Docs SayDead End for Treatment of Polio-Like Disorder Striking KidsAHA: Traumatic Childhood Could Increase Heart Disease Risk in AdulthoodSmartphones, Summer Birth Could Raise Kids' Odds for NearsightednessHealth Tip: If Your Child Develops a FeverPediatricians Renew Call to Abandon SpankingSleep May Speed Kids' Recovery From ConcussionSharp Rise Seen in Kids' ER Visits for Mental Health WoesInjured Parent Can Mean Sleepless Nights for KidsObesity May Harm Kids' Academics, Coping SkillsInstant-Soup Burns Send Almost 10,000 Kids to ERs Each YearHealth Tip: A Pediatrician's Role in Special EducationCommon Chemical Tied to Language Delay in KidsIn California, Some Doctors Sell 'Medical Exemptions' for Kids' VaccinationsGetting Flu Shot Annually Won't Undermine Its Effectiveness in KidsSmoke Alarm With Mom's Voice Wakes Children FasterDon't Blame Just Air Pollution for Asthma in KidsObesity a Painful Reality for 1 in 6 U.S. YouthsAHA: Heart Health's Impact on Brain May Begin in ChildhoodDisabling Hip Ailment Is Another Health Risk for Obese KidsTry Small 'Bites' to Get Kids to ExerciseCDC Warns of Polio-Like Virus Striking More U.S. KidsCountries That Ban Spanking See Less Teen Violence: StudyHealth Tip: Know the Risks of Chicken PoxKids' Concussion Symptoms May Persist for a YearAdd Asthma to List of Possible Causes of Childhood ObesityHealth Tip: Teach Your Kids ToleranceHealth Tip: Treat Your Child's AllergiesMore Evidence Video Games May Trigger Aggression in KidsDeath Rates for Young Americans Drop, But Still Too HighJust Witnessing School Violence Can Leave Psychic ScarsGrowing Up Poor May Permanently Damage Thinking SkillsFast Foods' Healthier Options Might Not Help Kids Eat BetterBrief Exercise Breaks During Class Help Bodies, BrainsCan Too Much Screen Time Dumb Down Your Kid?Booster Shots Safe for Most Kids Who Have Vaccine Reaction: Study5 Tips to Manage Your Child's AsthmaMom-to-Be's High-Gluten Diet Linked to Type 1 Diabetes in BabyHealth Tip: Protect Your Child's HearingCould Household Cleaners Make Your Kid Fat?Picky Eating May Mask Larger IssuesMore Water, Mom? H2O Is Top Kids' Beverage in U.S.How to Reassure Kids When Florence StrikesNew Drug Could Help Kids With MSAHA: Get Your (Exer)game On to Make Screen Time Pay OffHealth Tip: Connect With Your Child
Questions and AnswersLinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Parenting
Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)
Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)
Childhood Special Education

Can Eating Fish Make Kids Smarter?

HealthDay News
by By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Dec 21st 2017

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Dec. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Myth has it that fish is brain food -- but it just might be more than myth, a new study suggests.

Kids who ate fish at least once a week had intelligence quotients, or IQs, that were nearly 5 points higher than the IQs for kids who ate less fish or none at all, the study found. Fish eaters also slept better.

Though the study was done among Chinese children, American kids are just as likely to benefit from fish, according to lead researcher Jianghong Liu, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

"We need to modify the American diet for the betterment of our children," she said.

"If parents want their children to be healthy and higher-performing, they should put fish on the table once a week," Liu said. "That is not too much to ask."

Although the study cannot prove that eating fish accounted for the higher IQs and better sleep, they do seem to be associated, she said.

According to the researchers, the benefit in IQ can be pinned to the better sleep afforded by omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish.

To find out if fish was linked to benefits in children's health, Liu and her colleagues studied the eating habits of more than 500 boys and girls in China, 9 to 11 years old. The children completed a questionnaire about how often they'd eaten fish in the past month, with options that ranged from never to at least once a week.

The kids also took the Chinese version of an IQ test that rates verbal and nonverbal skills, called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised.

In addition, the children's parents answered questions about their child's sleep quality. The information collected included how long kids slept, how often they woke during the night and whether they were sleepy during the day.

Liu's team also took into account other factors that could influence the findings, such as the parents' education, occupation and marital status and the number of children in the home.

The team found that children who ate fish at least once a week scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests than those who seldom or never ate fish. Kids whose meals sometimes included fish scored slightly more than 3 points higher.

Moreover, eating more fish was linked with better sleep.

One U.S. nutritionist, however, says that advice to eat fish should be taken with a grain of salt.

"It's not that eating fish is unhealthy per se, but there are issues that need to be considered before parents go overboard feeding fish to their kids to make them smarter and sleep better," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. She was not involved with the study.

Fish is a good source of lean protein and is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, she said. These acids are highly concentrated in the brain and play important roles in neurological function. They are essential for brain, eye and neurological development in fetuses. They are also necessary for eye, heart and brain health in adults and may reduce systemic inflammation, Heller said.

"The concern with eating fish is not only the overfishing of our seas, but the amount of mercury -- a neurotoxin -- found in fish," she said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends only one to two 2-ounce servings of low-mercury fish a week for children ages 4 to 7; 3 ounces for children 8 to 10; and 4 ounces for children 11 and older, Heller said.

Five commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish, according to the FDA.

"A healthy, balanced diet, plenty of exercise and limited computer and screen time can all help kids sleep better and do better in school," Heller said.

The study was published online Dec. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports.

More information

The Harvard School of Public Health has more on healthy diets for kids.