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Role of fish oils in children’s IQ

A study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science reviews the Database on Raising Intelligence to find interventions that increased children’s intelligence. One such intervention involved supplementing infants with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the study concludes that this does indeed have a positive impact on children’s IQ. 

This raises interesting questions, or rather trade offs, in view of the Marine Conservation Society’s recent downgrading of mackerel as regards sustainability.  It has been moved from the ‘fish to eat’ list to the ‘fish that should only be eaten occasionally’ category. The downgrade is the result of overfishing of the stock and the subsequent suspension of the north east Atlantic stock’s Marine Stewardship Council certification, meaning it is no longer considered a sustainable fishery.  The MCS lists herring and sardine  as good alternatives to mackerel, for the time being at least.

Note that the study also identified 3 other, non-diet based interventions as effective in raising children’s intelligence - enrolling children in early educational interventions, reading to children in an interactive manner, and sending children to preschool.

The abstract is as follows:


Can interventions meaningfully increase intelligence? If so, how? The Database of Raising Intelligence is a continuously updated compendium of randomized controlled trials that were designed to increase intelligence. In this article, the authors examine nearly every available intervention involving children from birth to kindergarten, using meta-analytic procedures when more than 3 studies tested similar methods and reviewing interventions when too few were available for meta-analysis. This yielded 4 meta-analyses on the effects of dietary supplementation to pregnant mothers and neonates, early educational interventions, interactive reading, and sending a child to preschool. All 4 meta-analyses yielded significant results: Supplementing infants with long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, enrolling children in early educational interventions, reading to children in an interactive manner, and sending children to preschool all raise the intelligence of young children.

Citation as follows:

Protzko, J., Aronson, J., Blair, C. (2012). How to Make a Young Child Smarter: Evidence From the Database of Raising Intelligence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 1, 25-40. DOI: 10.1177/1745691612462585.

To access this study, click here (subscription required).

For the Marine Conservation Society article, click here.

For more on the FCRN website on fish see here.

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