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Can eating fish make children smarter?

The myth is that fish is food for the brain, but it could be more than a myth, a new study suggests.

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

Although the study was conducted among Chinese children, it is likely that American children will benefit from the fish, according to lead researcher Jianghong Liu, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Philadelphia

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

"If parents want their children to be healthy and have a superior performance, they should put fish on the table once a week," Liu said. "That's not asking too much."

Although the study can not prove that eating fish represented a higher IQ and better sleep does seem to be associated, he said.

According to the researchers, the benefit in IQ can be set to the best sleep provided by the omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish.

To find out if fish was related to the health benefits of children, Liu and his colleagues studied the eating habits of more than 500 boys and girls in China, ages 9 to 11. The children completed a questionnaire about the frequency with which they had eaten fish in the last month, with options that varied between never and at least once a week.

Children also took the Chinese version of an intelligence test that verbalizes and non-verbal skills, called Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised.

In addition, the parents of the children answered questions about the quality of their children's sleep. The information gathered included how much the children slept, how often they woke up during the night and if they were sleepy during the day.

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

The team found that children who ate fish at least once a week scored 4.8 points more on IQ tests than those who rarely or never ate fish. Children whose meals sometimes included fish scored a little more than 3 more points.

In addition, eating more fish was related to better sleep.

An American dietitian, however, says that advice to eat fish should be taken with a grain of salt.

"It's not that eating fish is not healthy in itself, but there are problems that must be taken into account before parents go overboard feeding their children to make them smarter and sleep better," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinic. nutritionist at the Medical Center of the University of New York in the city of New York. She did not participate in the study.

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

"The concern to eat fish is not just the overfishing of our seas, but the amount of mercury, a neurotoxin, – found in fish," he said.

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

Five fish that are commonly consumed with low mercury content 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 help children sleep better and perform better in school," said Heller.

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

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