Omega-3s for Eye Health

Omega-3s for Eye Health
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Women who eat fish rich in omega-3s at least once a week may decrease their risk of age-related macular degeneration
Omega-3 fatty acids have gained widespread notice and popularity for their many health benefits. Now adding to that list, a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology finds that women who eat fish rich in omega-3s at least once a week may decrease their risk of age-related macular degeneration by almost half.

Food for your eyes

Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive condition that can lead to eventual blindness. With the exception of not smoking, there are few measures known to help prevent this condition. As a result, researchers in this study were interested in exploring dietary factors as a potential means to help prevent this disease.

In this study, 39,876 women (average age 55) were followed for an average of ten years for incidence of age-related macular degeneration. Participants filled out a baseline food questionnaire, including questions about the amounts and types of fish they ate. Results showed:

  • Women who ate the most DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) had a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration compared with women who ate the least.
  • Women who ate fish at least once a week cut their risk for this condition nearly in half compared with women who ate fish less than once a month. Eating canned tuna and dark-meat fish such as mackerel, salmon or sardines, appeared to be particularly protective.

According to author William G. Christen and his colleagues from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “Fatty acids are known to exert anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerotic, and antithrombotic effects on the vasculature and may help to maintain or improve choroidal blood flow in the eye.” Further research may determine if the findings in this observational study are supported.

Good habits for eye health

Our eyes are one of our most important organs for navigating and enjoying our environment, and following these few simple tips can help keep eyes healthy:

  • Have regular eye check-ups. See your general doctor and/or eye doctor for recommendations on regular eye exams. Regular check-ups are the best way to ensure the health of your eyes and to take action if there are signs of disease.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach contain nutrients that are particularly important for eye health. Eat an abundance of fruits and veggies as part of your daily diet. And there are many additional reports on the health benefits from eating fish once or twice a week.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in the eyes, so avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. If you smoke, reach out for professional guidance on how to quit.

 (Arch Ophthalmol. Published online March 14, 2011. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.34)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, websites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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