Fish Oil Omega-3 Fatty Acids help prevent blindness in the elderly

July 28, 2009

A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the over-50s according to a new animal study. Researchers from the National Eye Institute in Bethesda found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could retard the progression of lesions in the eyes of mice. The fatty acids were also associated with an improvement in some lesions. “The results in these mice are in line with the epidemiological studies of AMD risk reduction by long chain omega-3 fatty acids,” wrote the researchers in the American Journal of Pathology.

AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that causes central vision loss and leaves only peripheral vision. It is the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 55 years of age in the Western world, according to AMD Alliance International. Despite the fact that approximately 25 to 30 million people worldwide are affected by AMD, awareness of the condition is low, says the Alliance. And as the generation of Baby Boomers gets older, the Alliance expects incidence to be on the rise and triple by 2025.

It is known that omega-3 fatty acids, and particularly DHA, play an important role in the layer of nerve cells in the retina, and studies have already reported that omega-3 may protect against the onset of AMD. A meta-analysis published in the June 2008 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology found that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fish may reduce the risk of AMD by up to 38%. The study is published in the American Journal of Pathology, Volume 175, Pages 799-807.