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Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration

March 16, 2011

Omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by up to 45 percent, according to a new US study.

The observational study examined the relationship between dietary intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and fish with visually significant age-related macular degeneration (AMD) over a ten year follow-up of 38,022 female health professionals (1). The study results showed that women who consumed the most DHA compared with women who consumed the lowest amount had a 38 percent lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, while higher intake of EPA resulted in a 35 percent lower risk. Results for fish intake showed that consumption of one or more servings of fish per week, when compared to less than one per month, was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of AMD. This association was independent of other AMD risk factors.

The researchers deemed the trial’s results the strongest evidence to date in support of the role of omega-3 long-chain fatty acids in the primary prevention of AMD, and perhaps a reduction in the number of persons who ultimately have advanced AMD. As for the large majority of persons with early or no AMD, recognized means of disease prevention where not shown. Identification of such a means to prevent or delay the development of AMD would have marked public health significance.

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in individuals aged 60 and older. It is a disease that destroys the sharp, central vision necessary to seeing objects clearly and doing tasks such as reading and driving. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss.

References

  1. Christen W. G. et al. Dietary n-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women. Archives of Ophthalmology. 2011.