The effect of school meals with fatty fish on adolescents’ self-reported symptoms for mental health: FINS-TEENS – a randomized controlled intervention trial.


There is a growing body of evidence linking fish consumption and n-3 LCPUFAs to mental health. Still, the results from randomized trials with n-3 LCPUFAs show conflicting results, and it is possible that the combined effect of several nutrients in fish may explain the observed associations. To aim of the present study was to investigate if school meals with fatty fish three times per week for 12 weeks could alter mental health in a sample of typically developing adolescents. In the Fish Intervention Studies-TEENS (FINS-TEENS), adolescents from eight secondary schools (n=425) in Norway, were randomized to receive school meals with fatty fish, meat or n-3 LCPUFA supplements. Mental health was assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the differences between the groups were assessed with linear mixed effect models, unadjusted and adjusted for baseline and dietary compliance. The results showed no effects of school meals with fatty fish compared to similar meals with meat or n-3 LCPUFAs on the adolescents’ self-reported symptom scores for mental health. Among adolescents scoring above the SDQ cut-offs (high-scorers), the fish- improved less than the meat group in the self-reported symptom scores for total difficulties- and emotional problems. However, the findings should be regarded as preliminary, as the analyses for the high-scorer group were underpowered. In conclusion, serving school meals with fatty fish did not alter mental health in a typically developing sample of adolescents. It is possible that serving healthy school meals with meat is more beneficial than similar meals with fatty fish in adolescents scoring high on mental health problems. However, the results should be seen as preliminary, as the dietary compliance in the fish group was low and the analyses in the high score group underpowered. Thus, further studies should investigate the associations between fish consumption and adolescents’ mental health.