There’s no doubt that 2017 is the year that we all collectively realized that getting a good night of sleep is the key to peak wellness. In fact, this year alone has taught us that coffee naps, clean sleeping, or even something as simple as opening a window at night can all help you get a solid night of rest. But a new study out of the University of Pennsylvania has found yet another method for maximizing shuteye: Eating fish. What’s more, it also improves cognition and makes you smarter, so it’s kind of a win-win-win.
The study, published this week in Scientific Reports, was conducted in China by giving a questionnaire to 541 children, 54 percent boys and 46 percent girls, ages ranging between 9 and 11. The questionnaire asked them how often they had eaten fish in the last month, with options ranging from “never” to “at least once a week.” Their answers were then compared to the Chinese version of an IQ test—known as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised—as well as to their parents’ responses on their sleep quality according to the standardized Children Sleep Habits Questionnaire.
After factoring in variables such as parental education and marital status, the researchers found that the children who reported eating fish regularly scored 4.8 points higher on IQ exams than those who seldom consumed it. Those who only sometimes ate fish similarly scored 3.3 higher on IQ exams than those who did not. In addition, the researchers found that the regular fish eaters tended to not wake up as often at night, thereby getting a much better night of sleep.
The findings are consistent with a growing body of research that indicates that omega-3s, the fatty acids found in fish and seafood, have numerous nutritional benefits. For instance, people who live in so-called “Blue Zones,” places where residents routinely live above the age of 90, tend to eat a Mediterranean diet that is heavy in seafood. Omega-3s have also been shown to reduce anti-social behavior and ADHD, fight depression and anxiety, improve vision, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and just generally help you stay sharp as you get older.
As a result of this data, researchers are encouraging parents to introduce their children to a diet rich in fish early on. “Introducing the taste early makes it more palatable,” Jennifer Pinto-Martin, executive director of Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiatives and a professor of epidemiology at Penn Medicine, said. “It really has to be a concerted effort, especially in a culture where fish is not as commonly served or smelled. Children are sensitive to smell. If they’re not used to it, they may shy away from it.”
But amped-up seafood consumption isn’t just for kids: Adults should definitely follow suit as well. In a recent study, conducted by the Global Nutrition and Health Alliance and published in Nutrients, 8 percent of U.S. adults had omega-3 levels below the optimal range of 8.0+ using the study test method. Plus, there’s even more reason to slate tuna and salmon into your diet: They’re both among the 25 Winter Superfoods That Will Help Prevent Weight Gain.
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