Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study which revealed that children who eat lots of fish are more likely to achieve better cognitive performance and sleep better than those who hardly or never eat at all. These findings were taken from data involving 514 children aged 12 years old.


The participants were all part of the 2nd wave of an ongoing prospective longitudinal study called “The China Jintan Cohort Study”. The parents of these children were asked to observe the fish consumption and sleep patterns of the children. In fact, they were observed on eight sleep parameters – sleep-onset delay, night waking, sleep anxiety, bedtime resistance, sleep duration, daytime sleepiness, parasomnias (a category of sleep disorders that involves abnormal movements, behaviors, etc.), and sleep-disordered breathing.

The children’s IQ was also taken while their parents were observing and rating their sleep patterns. Using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R), the children’s cognitive performance were rated based on six non-verbal subtests – picture completion, picture arrangement, block design, object assembly, coding, and mazes. Then, the scientists combined the verbal and performance IQs to get the overall score.


The overall results indicated that 58% of the children ate fish twice or thrice a week, 25% at least once a week, and 18% seldom or never consumed fish. After observing all these, the researchers discovered that the children who often ate fish had higher IQ scores and slept better than those who seldom or never ate fish.

Likewise, the respondents who ate fish when they were nine and eleven years old had higher scores in verbal IQ, performance IQ, and full-scale IQ compared with those who rarely or never ate fish.

The researchers concluded that sleep had partly been instrumental in generating the favorable results between fish consumption and cognitive performance. They said that eating fish more often may improve the quality of sleep, and therefore, leading to better long-term cognitive performance. They found out that their findings confirm previous studies about the relationship between intake of omega-3 fatty acids and cognitive performance, as well as the link between omega-3 consumption and better sleep.

The findings will be used in promoting healthier dietary habits for children and adolescents.

Tips on Enhancing Your Child’s Cognitive Performance

Here are some tips to enhance and encourage your child’s cognitive development, specifically attention, memory, concentration, and perception:

Exercise mentally and physically

Exercise physically as well as mentally. Have your child do physical exercises such as swimming or cycling complemented by different mental exercises such as online learning games for their cognitive growth. There are also a lot of these exercises off-line just in case you don’t have internet access.

Provide a loving environment

Children who live and thrive in a loving, supportive, and comfortable environment are most likely going to grow up with enhanced cognitive development. A loving home environment will help your children focus on their development instead of always searching for approval. Kisses, hugs, and other ways of showing emotion and support can help them express their feelings and communicate with others.

Have fun with the kids

Lastly, always allocate time to play, explore, and have fun with your kids. Doing so will contribute to their enhanced cognitive performance.

What do you think of this discovery about the link between eating fish and children’s cognitive performance? Share your opinions in the comments below!

Image by CongerDesign / CC0 1.0