‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Feed Your Brain Fish, Stand By for Superior Slumber

This article focuses on two things: Sleep and fish. They're kind of unusual and slippery bedfellows, so to speak. But swim with me, and sleep soundly... It might help your waistline and you brain.

What if I told you the frequency of fish consumption improved sleep quality? What if I told you, these two together have beneficial long-term cognitive outcomes? Feel like a salmon swimming upstream? Don't worry, the facts are packed like a tin of sardines.

Ok, but first... You, and scientists, already know a few things about fish:
  1. They contain long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acids
    • DHA and EPA (docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid)
  2. They're an excellent source of lean protein
  3. They contain iodine, vitamin D, and antioxidants
  4. Eating fish 2-3 times a week is currently recommended for good health
  5. Fish during pregnancy is not only great, it's encouraged (more on that here and here)
  6. Certain fish are high in methyl-mercury (read about that in the links at bullet 5 above)
Expanding on some of these, here are a few things you may not know:
  1. DHA and omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in melatonin (sleep hormone) production (1, 2)
  2. DHA and EPA play a critical role in the growth and function of neural tissue
  3. The children of pregnant women who ate fish (or took supplements - see more about supplements here) during pregnancy had improved neurodevelopment functions including eye and hand coordination, language and visual motor skills, IQ, and cognitive and academic performance (in adolescences)
  4. Omega-3 intake is associated with reduced cognitive decline and dementia in older adults
So the study in question regarding sleep and fish examined the fish eating habits of school-aged kids (9-11 years old), also their sleep quality (higher sleep quality meant fewer sleep disturbances), and cognition (IQ).
Findings showed that kids who ate fish more regularly (once or more than once per week) had significantly fewer sleep disturbances, therefore higher sleep quality, compared to their peers who seldom or never ate fish. The fish-eaters also had increased verbal, performance, and full scale IQ scores (almost 5 points higher). Scaling the intellectual ladder may actually involve scales (because fish have scales... get it?)

What's the bottom line?
Fish intake on a frequent basis may improve sleep quality, resulting in more favourable long-term cognition.
The other important connection here is the link between sleep, academic performance, and obesity... Not a new concept, especially given all the policies around feeding kids breakfast at school to improve academic performance. But let's connect the dots for fun:
  • Poor sleep and lack of sleep negatively impacts learning, academic performance, and memory (1, 2)
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of weight gain and obesity through a variety of factors including changes in circadian rhythm (body clock), microbiome, and metabolism (1, 2, 3, 4)
Taken together, here are some tips:
  • Kids, adults, parents, pregnant ladies, grandparents: Eat fish 2-3 times per week
    • Aids with cognition, supplies essential omega-3 fats, and may also improve sleep
  • Choose low mercury fish as an excellent source of lean protein
    • This can displace fatty meats or processed meats that add significant calories and known carcinogens
  • Get enough sleep at every age (1, 2)
    • Improves cognition, learning, obesity/weight management
If you've got a bone to pick, grab life by the fish tail and swim to it!