Granada, Spain—Women who eat fish during pregnancy are more likely to have smarter and sociable children.  According to new research, mothers that ate oily fish like tuna, salmon and sardines raised infants who scored better in tests of skill and intelligence.

Conducting a £5.9-million European Commission study, Spanish researchers looked at 2,000 women in the 20th week of their pregnancies and again after birth. The researchers recorded their diet and took blood samples to test for levels of omega-3 and omega-6. They also took blood samples from umbilical cords after birth.

The infants were tested with verbal intelligence quizzes and on social and fine motor skills. The University of Granada researchers found that kids whose mothers ate the omega-rich fish during pregnancy did the best in the tests.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the omega-3 DHA contributes to the healthy development of both the brain and eyes of a fetus because it is a major component of brain cell membranes.

This study is part of a bigger project that researches the effects of diet on newborn babies that lasts until 2013. It also follows a study from last year that found eating fish during pregnancy could cut a woman’s chances of developing post-natal depression. This type of depression affects up to 13% of new mothers, and can last more than a year in severe cases.

Lead researcher Dr. Michelle Price Judge from the University of Connecticut added that while some pregnant women prefer the thought of supplements, they felt eating fish is the more nutritious option.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2012 (online 2/23/12)