ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Childhood Fish Consumption Linked to Higher ADHD

Studies in recent years have touted the importance of fish consumption for brain development, while also warning of the effects of the neurotoxin mercury in some fish varieties.

Now, a Cape Cod, Massachusetts-based study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers suggests that higher levels of fish consumption in childhood are associated with elevated odds of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), raising new questions about the benefits and risks associated with fish intake.

The study, in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, was based on questionnaires completed by more than 1,100 Cape Cod adults who were asked about their fish consumption in childhood (ages 7 to 12) and learning and behavioral problems. Participants who reported eating fish several times a week as children had 4.5 times the odds of ADHD as non-fish consumers. They also were more likely to report having difficulty paying attention or sitting still.

Lead author Dr. Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, said that the low-mercury fish varieties reported by participants were typically also low in n-3 PUFA, a beneficial fatty acid, and therefore would not be expected to yield cognitive benefits. But she added, “It is unclear why typical consumption of relatively low-mercury fish would adversely impact learning abilities and behavioral disorders. Perhaps, the occasional consumption of high-mercury fish had an adverse impact.”

To read more about the study, go to: