The study, conducted by researchers from Gothenburg and based on responses from nearly 4,000 Swedish teenagers, found that 15-year-old boys who ate fish at least once a week displayed higher cognitive skills by the time they turned 18 than did boys who it ate fish less frequently.
“We found a clear link between frequent fish consumption and higher scores when the teenagers ate fish at least once a week” said Kjell Torén, a professor from the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy who held lead the research, in a statement.
“When they ate fish more than once a week, the improvement almost doubled.”
The data were collected from responses gathered from a survey taken when the study subjects were 15-years-old, and from the cognitive scores recorded three years later from their Swedish military conscription files.
Specifically, the study found that male teenagers who each fish more than once a week score an average of 12 percent higher than those who ate fish less than once a week.
In addition, teenagers who ate fish more than once a week scored an average of 9 percent higher on verbal intelligence tests.
Torén explained that several studies have demonstrated that fish aids neurodevelopment in infants and can reduce the risk of impaired cognitive function later in life.
“However we believe that this is the first large-scale study to explore the effect on adolescents,” he said, adding however, that it remains unknown exactly how fish consumption is linked to improved cognitive performance.
One common theory is that fatty acids found in fish, such as omega-3 and omega-6, can have positive effects in cognitive performance.
“Other theories have been put forward that highlight their vascular and anti-inflammatory properties and their role in suppressing cytokines, chemicals that can affect the immune system,” said Torén.
The next stage for the researchers is to examine whether the kind of fish consumed can affect cognitive performance.
The results of the current study were published in the March issue of Acta Paediatrica.