Fish boosts teenage boys' brain power

March 17, 2009 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Fish boosts teenage boys' brain power

Teenage boys who regularly eat fish may be doing their brains some good, a new Swedish study suggests.

Researchers from Goteborg University found that among nearly 5,000 15-year-old boys they surveyed, those who ate fish more than once per week tended to score higher on intelligence tests three years later.

This remained true when the researchers accounted for several other factors that influence both children's diets and their intelligence scores -- like parents' education levels and the family's socioeconomic status.

Researchers believe that the omega-3 fats found in fish -- particularly oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and, to a lesser extent, albacore tuna -- are important to early brain development and to maintaining healthy brain function throughout life.

Past studies have found, for instance, that children whose mothers who ate fish regularly during pregnancy tend to have higher intelligence scores than their peers, and older fish-eaters have been shown to have a lower risk of cognitive impairment.

The new study appears to be the first large-scale one to look at the effects of fish on teenagers' intelligence.

The researchers believe this is an important finding because the late-teens are a critical period for the brain "plasticity" that underlies intelligence and emotional and social behavior. Plasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganize the connections among cells in response to normal experience, like learning a new skill, or to injury.

The findings are based on data from 4,792 male adolescents who completed detailed questionnaires on diet and lifestyle when they were 15 years old, then underwent standard intelligence tests when they were 18.

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