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Oh, ‘Boy,’ It’s Fish!

Fish:  Boys’ Brain Booster, Say Swedish Researchers

Salmon

Consumption of fish has brain boosting benefits.

When I was a young tike, I used to watch a pretty good amount of Sesame Street.  Unlike today’s crop of shows geared for children, Sesame Street had—and has—some redeeming qualities, as various segments in their hour programs taught young kids how to read, write, and eat healthy (except for maybe those “C is for Cookie” bits performed by the Cookie Monster).

For whatever reason, I remember one particular segment that showed a young boy out with his father on an ice fishing expedition.  I think I remember the segment because, being a pre-schooler at the time, it’d never dawned on me that people actually went out fishing in the dead of winter.

At any rate, by the end of the segment, the boy says something that I’ve always remembered: 

…And boy, do I like fish!

Weird thing to remember, huh?  To this day, I don’t know why I’ve remembered this innocuous comment, but it segues nicely into a new study that was recently released in the March issue of the journal Acta Paediatrica.

According to the study, teenage boys that eat fish once a week or more perform better on cognitive tests than infrequent fish finaglers. 

But the positive effects on brain function aren’t relegated to short-term improvements in spatial and factual knowledge, as previous studies have demonstrated.  These scientists tested how, or if, the brain improved three years down the road.  In other words, how did the boys’ brain function fare by their 18th birthdays?

The results?  Brain boosting benefits of fish last (too bad the same can’t be said for fish freshness).  The Swedish researchers found that boys who ate fish more than twice a week averaged a score that was 12 percent higher than boys who ate fish less than once a week.  That was on overall intelligence scores, though.  When the results were broken down to verbal and visuospatial skills (for example, the skills we use to decipher what puzzle piece fits with another), fish fans scored 9 percent higher on the former and 11 percent higher on the latter (again, as compared to those who ate fish less than once a week).

And before you go off thinking this was a small scale study that didn’t take into account contributing factors, well, factor this:  the study involved approximately 4,000 15-year-old boys, 58 percent of whom ate fish, 20 percent  on a regular basis (by “regular basis” I mean more than once a week).  And to make sure as few things as possible skewed the results, the researchers’ took into account possible contributing factors among all the volunteers, like the parents’ education level, how often they exercised, and where they lived (presumably because certain locales have better educational systems than others).

The results were so convincing to the researchers, it caused the study’s head honcho, Dr. Maria Aberg, to say something rarely heard among the scientific elite:  that there was a “very clear association” between regular fish consumption and improved cognition in boys’ late teen years (If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you know how often scientists hedge their bets with words like “may” and “possible,” so as not to put themselves in a corner should  their results turn out to be flawed.  Not the case here).

This is not to say that the good researchers from the University of Gothenburg have all the answers, though.  For instance, while salmon and mackerel are loaded with omega-3s – the long chain of fatty acids presumed to be the catalyst in turning fish food into brain food – they’re not convinced the leaner side of fish doesn’t provide the same brain benefit.

If your teenage boy hasn’t loved fish since pre-pubescence, chances are he’s not much of a fan of it today.  My advice is to have at it for dinner anyway.  He may not be a fan of salmon, but perhaps he’s a nut for halibut.  He may not crave crab, but perhaps he’s in love with lobster.  He may hate haddock, but he may adore albacore.

The point is, the more fish he’s exposed to, the greater the chances he’ll like one of them. 

Whatever that fish happens to be, his brain will eat it up!      

Source:
ScienceDaily

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  1. Eating Fish Chokes ‘Silent’ Stroke Risk: So Long as It’s Not Fried, Study Says
  2. Moms that Eat Fish Low in Mercury Produce Smart Kids, Study Finds
  3. Omega-3 Fish Oils Greatly Reduce the Risk of Three Major Diseases, Study Finds
  4. Mainstream Media (Finally) Reels One In: Study Confirms Fish Oil Better Than Cholesterol Meds for Treating Heart Failure
  5. A Beautiful Find…Study Finds Fish Oil May Prevent Onset of Schizophrenia
  


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