Macular Degeneration Nutrition

Benefits of Omega 3 to Our Vision

(Today’s post is contributed by Leslie Degner, RN, BSN.  Her website is focused on Macular Degeneration.  Thank you Leslie for sharing this information on Fatty Acids.)

Fatty acids may improve macular degeneration.  The importance of omega-3 fatty acids for a healthy brain are well known. But you may not know that these essential fatty acids (EFAs) may benefit our vision as well. These fats are called essential fatty acids because without them we die and if we are deficient in them we suffer from inflammatory and degenerative diseases.

Because the human body does not have the ability to make these fatty acids, we must get these healthy fats from our diet or fish oil tablets or supplements. The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are :

√ docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

√ eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

√ alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an essential nutrient and a type of omega-3 fatty acid that has been studied for its role in brain, heart and eye health. Although it is found in most tissues throughout the body, the highest concentrations of DHA are in:

1) the brain,

2) the nervous system and

3) the retina.

Both DHA and EPA are long-chain fatty acids that protect against oxidative, inflammatory and age-related degenerative changes. These three damaging processes result in the development of age related macular degeneration..

Several studies have shown the correlation between omega 3 fatty acid consumption and the risk of macular degeneration. Increasing the amount of oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, consumption to just 2 servings per week can reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Researchers from Australia and Singapore published a study entitled, “Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake in the Primary Prevention of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” This meta-analysis consisted of a mathematical evaluation of the results from nine previous studies of nearly 89,000 people, of which more than 3000 developed macular degeneration.

The authors found that high dietary intake of fish oils was associated with a 38% reduction in the risk of late macular degeneration. Furthermore, people who ate fish twice weekly not only reduced their risk of late AMD, but also early AMD (soft drusen or retinal pigmentary changes).

Because of their apparent benefits, the National Eye Institute is currently performing the Age Related Eye Disease Study 2, which is looking at the benefit of supplementing with fish oil, and with the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

In the next article we will look at how to include fish oil in your diet through food and/or supplements.

Leslie Degner, RN, BSN

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