Intellect Doubles in Teens who Eat Fish
If your teenager is suffering from bad grades, you may want to consider serving up a plate of fish once a week. The results of a new study show that male teenagers who consumed one serving of fish weekly scored higher on cognitive function tests, designed to measure intellect. Teenagers who ate fish more than once a week scored even higher. Eating fish, more than once a week, doubled the teenager’s cognitive scores.
Cognitive testing measures the ability to process information, speed of information processing, memory retention, language, executive functions, and attention – all attributes that help teenagers succeed with setting goals and following through. The Swedish study shows that teenagers who eat fish scored higher in all areas of cognitive testing, and those who ate the most fish scored even higher.
Professor Kjell Torén from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, a contributing researcher, says, "We found a clear link between frequent fish consumption and higher scores when male teenagers ate fish at least once a week. When they ate fish more than once a week the improvement almost doubled”.
The teenagers studied ranged in age from 15 to 18, an essential time to for advances in learning, says Torén…“when educational achievements can help to shape the rest of a young man's life.” It seems that fish consumption during formidable teenage years may greatly contribute to cognitive performance.
The researchers compared cognitive testing scores of 3,972 males to responses the teenagers submitted in a survey three years prior. Test results were taken from the teenager’s Swedish Military Conscription records.
Sixty-eight percent of the teenagers ate fish regularly. Twenty percent of those ate fish more than once a week. Teenagers who ate fish once a week scored seven percent higher in intellect. Those who ate fish more often scored twelve percent higher. Verbal intelligence skills were four and nine percent higher in the teenagers who ate fish once a week and more than once a week, respectively. Visuospatial scores were also higher in the teenagers who ate fish. Intelligence scores were even higher when the teenagers ate fish more than once a week. Teenagers who ate fish more than once a week scored eleven percent higher on Visuospatial skills, compared to teenagers who ate fish once a week.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are the most likely explanation as to why teenagers doubled their intelligence scores from eating more fish. "The most widely held theory is that it is the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish that have positive effects on cognitive performance," says Professor Torén. Perhaps Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids accumulate in the brain, in the same way as when a fetus develops, leading to improved brain function.
The researchers plan to study exactly which kind of fish provide the most benefit for improving cognitive function in teenagers – lean fish or fatty fish, such as mackerel.
The study also found that after adjusting for all other variables, including intellect of the teenager’s parents, eating fish was clearly associated with increased cognitive scores among the male teenagers.
The study shows that adding beneficial fatty acids from fish to your teenager’s diet can make a difference in contributing to teenage intellectual development.
Aberg et al. Acta Paediatrica. 98.3, pp 555-560. (March 2009).