American Journal of Clinical Nutrition July 2020; Vol. 112; No. 1; pp. 74–83

Marie N Teisen, Stine Vuholm, Janni Niclasen, Juan J Aristizabal-Henao, Ken D Stark, Svend S Geertsen, Camilla T Damsgaard, and Lotte Lauritzen: From the University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; and the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. This study cites 50 references.


The relationship between nutrition and cognitive development has long been a subject of interest, and recent research delves into the specific effects of dietary choices on cognitive function in children. A study conducted with the objective of investigating the impact of oily fish intake versus poultry on cognitive function in 8–9-year-old children provides valuable insights into this critical area.

Key Findings:

  • Nutrition’s Role in Brain Development:
  • The study emphasizes the importance of nutrition in brain development and cognitive function. The findings underscore the idea that dietary choices play a crucial role in shaping cognitive abilities.
  • Accumulation of Long-Chain n–3 PUFAs in the Brain:
  • Long-chain n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n–3 LCPUFAs), particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), accumulate in the brain during childhood and significantly influence brain development. DHA is considered crucial for neuronal development, especially in regions associated with cognitive functions such as executive functions, attention, and memory.
  • Role of Oily Fish in Cognitive and Socioemotional Development:
  • Oily fish, being rich in n–3 LCPUFAs, emerge as a primary dietary source with potential benefits for cognitive and socioemotional development throughout childhood and adolescence. The study highlights the importance of these fatty acids in emotional regulation, impulse control, and social behavior.
  • Dose-Dependent Cognitive Benefits of Oily Fish:
  • The results indicate that a higher intake of oily fish tends to improve overall cognitive performance and reduce socioemotional problems in healthy children. The cognitive benefits were dose-dependent, with a more significant effect observed in individuals with higher fish consumption and elevated levels of LCPUFAs in their erythrocytes.
  • Short-Term Effects on Neurotransmission and Gene Expression:
  • While the study acknowledges that the duration might be too short to observe structural effects of n–3 LCPUFAs, it suggests that the timeframe is sufficient to witness effects on neurotransmission and gene expression, indicating the dynamic influence of these fatty acids on cognitive function.


In conclusion, the study provides compelling evidence supporting the positive impact of oily fish consumption on cognitive performance and socioemotional well-being in healthy children. These findings reinforce the importance of including n–3 LCPUFAs, particularly from sources like oily fish, in the diet recommendations for optimal brain function during childhood and adolescence. As our understanding of the intricate relationship between nutrition and cognitive development expands, these insights contribute to shaping dietary guidelines that promote cognitive health in the younger population.