Eating the right amount of fish: Inverted U-shape association between fish consumption and cognitive performance and academic achievement in Dutch adolescents

  • R.H.M. de Groot
    Corresponding author at: Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies, Open University Valkenburgerweg 177 6419 AT Heerlen, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 45 5762276; fax: +31 45 5762200
    Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies, Open University, Valkenburgerweg 177, 6419 AT Heerlen, The Netherlands

    LEARN! Research Institute, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (MHeNS), Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • C. Ouwehand
    LEARN! Research Institute, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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  • J. Jolles
    LEARN! Research Institute, Faculty of Psychology and Education, VU University Amsterdam, Van der Boechorststraat 1, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Published:January 24, 2012DOI:


      Fish consumption has shown its benefits for cognitive functioning in the elderly or children with disorders (e.g., autism, ADHD), but has rarely been investigated in relation to cognitive performance and school performance of healthy adolescents. We executed an observational study in 700 Dutch high school students aged 12–18 years. Fish consumption data, end term grades, scores on the Amsterdam Vocabulary Test, and scores on the Youth Self-Report were collected. Results revealed that 13.6% of the Dutch adolescents never ate fish, 6.4% met national guidelines, 16.9% reached half of the norm, and 63.1% did eat fish but too little to meet at least half of the norm. Analysis of variance, controlled for relevant covariates, showed significant differences between the four fish consumption groups in vocabulary (p=.05). A trend for significance was found for end term grades (p=.07). Contrast analyses demonstrated significant quadratic associations between fish consumption and vocabulary (p=.01) and end term grades (p=.01). Thus higher fish intake was associated with more advanced vocabulary and higher end term grades. However, eating more fish than the described norm seemed no longer beneficial.


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