Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Macular Degeneration

Some researchers have focused on reducing the risk associated with macular degeneration.  Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to the prevention of macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in the aging population.  With much of the research focused on providing treatment for those people diagnosed with macular degeneration, particularly anti-VEGF drugs such as Lucentis, Macugen and Avastin, some researchers have focused on preventing the eye disease.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia have established a link to Omega-3 fatty acids and the prevention of macular degeneration.

In a study published in the June 2008 Archives of Ophthalmology, research shows that the consumption of foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids (ie fish) is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration.  In evaluating approximately 89,000 participants from 9 different studies, it was determined that of these 89,000 participants, 3,203 had been diagnosed with macular degeneration.  The researchers found that patients with a high dietary intake of Omega-3 fatty acids had a 38 percent lower risk of more advanced macular degeneration and that people who ate fish two times a week were at a reduced risk of developing both early and advanced forms of macular degeneration.

The study indicates that the reduced risk is associated in part with the fact that, “Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid in particular, form an integral part of the neural retina.”  Macular degeneration (AMD) is thought to begin as an Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency resulting from the shedding and regeneration of those outer nerve cells of the retina.  “A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and fish, as a proxy for long-chain omega-3 fatty acid intake, has therefore been hyptothesized as a means to prevent macular degeneration.”

The authors of the study have concluded that “consumption of fish and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration, there is insufficient evidence from the current literature, with few prospective studies and no randomized clinical trials, to support their routine consumption for macular degeneration prevention.”  They have also indicated that the “Primary prevention of macular degeneration by modifying risk factors (e.g. cigarette smoking) remains an important public health strategy.”

While this research provides some positive results, the authors are also quick to point out that there is still a need for more clinical trials before they can advocate routine consumption of these foods for the prevention of macular degeneration.