Study: Omega 3 Fatty Acids (1992, 2003, 2008-12, 2014) & Macular Degeneration



Learn more about macular degeneration and treatment options.

1992

While it is known that a low fat diet which gets only 10% of its calories from fat, and which excludes red meat and milk products lessens AMD risk (Anderson, R.E., et al, 1984), it has been found that the omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy vision.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids, especially found in fatty fish like salmon or sardines are important in preventing macular degeneration and their deficiency increases the risk of developing macular degeneration. 85% of AMD patients over age 70 had improved vision when they were given omega-3s for four weeks.

Researchers: W.E. Conner, M. Neuringer, and S. Reisbick
Published: Essential fatty acids: The importance of n-2 fatty acids in the retina and the brain, Nutrition Reviews 50 (1992): 21-29.

Editorís Note: The best sources of omega-3 EFAís are the flesh of cold water marine fish as well as black currant oil, flaxseed oil and hemp seed.

2003

Fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, especially fatty fish like salmon. Researchers reported that higher consumption omega-3 fatty acids are associated with lowered risk of advanced macular degeneration. The results were adjusted for nutrient and non-nutrient risk factors, according to data evaluated from the AREDS study in 2001, which involved more than 4,500 60 to 80 year old patients.

The risk was significantly decreased in the highest 1/5th of the study group based on their omega-3 consumption.

More than two servings a week of fish was linked to lower wet macular degeneration risk compared to no fish in the diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may protect the retina by through expression of genes, retinal cell differentiation, and survival. The ability of fatty acids to reduce inflammation may be a contributing factor.

Researchers: J. P. SanGiovanni, et al, National Eye Institute, Association for Research in Vision and Opthalmology
American Medical Association, Archives of Ophthalmology, 2007

2008

Researchers performed a meta analysis (essentially a study of more than 270 studies and papers that evaluated the relationship of omega-3, eating fish, and risk of macular degeneration.

They found that that high levels of omega-3 in the diet were tied to a 38% reduction in the risk of developing advanced macular degeneration. Eating fish two times a week as tied to both early and advanced macular degeneration.

Researchers: E.W. Chong, et al.
Published: Dietary omega-3 fatty acid and fish intake in the primary prevention of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Archives of Opthalmology, June, 2008.

2009

A longitudinal study investigated whether higher omega-3 intake is associated with a lower risk of developing macular degeneration. The study investigated the progression of the condition in over 1800 people over a twelve year period. Diet information was taken from a questionnaire at the outset of the research.

The researchers found that patients who reported the greatest omega-3 consumption were 20% less likely than others to develop macular degeneration over the 12 year period.

Researchers: John Paul SanGiovanni, et al,
Published: Omega-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: AREDS report 30, a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2009, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December, 2009.

2009

This study investigated omega-3 (EPA & DHA) effect on lab animals with AMD.

Researchers evaluated the direct effects of omega-3s on lab animals and found that if their diet was high in omega-3s, macular degeneration lesions developed more slowly, and in some cases, improved. In the animals where improvement was found there was also less inflammation present and greater quantities of anti-inflammation molecules.

Researchers: Tuo, et al.,
Published: A High Omega-3 Fatty Acid Diet Reduces Retinal Lesions in a Murine Model of Macular Degeneration, American Journal Of Pathology, 2009

2010

This study added shellfish to the helpful omega-3 sources.

Researchers evaluated food questionnaires from 2520 participants on Maryland's eastern shore regarding their weekly fish and shellfish consumption. Photos of their retinas were taken at the outset of the study to create a baseline and graded according to standardized procedures.

They found that while consumption was not greatly different for different categories of macular degeneration, those subjects who had more advanced stages of AMD were less likely to have included fish and shellfish in their diets. The researchers found no correlation between intake of crab and oysters (which contain much zinc).

Researchers: B.K. Swenor, S.K. West, et al., Salisbury Eye Evaluation Study
Published: The impact of fish and shellfish consumption on age-related macular degeneration, Ophthalmology, December, 2010.

2011

This large long term (ten years) study reviewed the diet of nearly 40,000 women, health professionals, with an average age of 54.6 years. More than 38,000 of the participants were free of AMD, measured by incident AMD and a reduction of 20/30 or worse. 235 cases of AMD were confirmed in the ten years of follow-up. Comparing the women with the highest and lowest 30% of docosahexaenoic acid intake (an omega-3 fatty acid) the relative risk was .66 (2/3rds) lower. Women who ate 1 or more servings of fish a week, compared to those with less than one serving per month, had a risk of .58. Consumption of other omega-3 fatty acids had similar results.

Their conclusion substantiated earlier findings that a diet that regularly including omega-3 fatty acids significantly lowered risk of age related macular degeneration in women.

Researchers: William G. Christen, ScD; Debra A., et al.
Published: Dietary omega-3 fatty acid and fish intake and incident age-related macular degeneration in women. Archives of Ophthalmology, 2011.

2014

Scientists have found that omega 3 fatty acids have the capacity to actually regulate formation of blood vessels - an important factor in development of macular degeneration. This occurs because of the nutrient's ability to encourage immune cell movement toward the site of extra formations of blood vessels that distort vision in the condition. The results indicate very promising potential for omega 3 as a nutritional therapy - not only for AMD, but for other conditions involving inflammation and creation of additional blood vessels.

Researchers: from Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School and other institutions.
Published: Cytochrome P450-generated metabolites derived from omega-3 fatty acids attenuate neovascularization, Ryoji Yanai, et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2014.