A research study published in Archives of Ophthalmology showed that ingesting omega-3 fatty acids and fish affects the incidence of AMD (age-related macular degeneration, or ARMD) in women. This large study (nearly 40,000 participants) over 10 years found that women who had the highest of intake of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid) had the lowest risk of AMD versus subjects with the lowest intake. Women who ate at least one serving of fish per week had a relative risk of AMD of 0.58 compared with women who ate less than one serving per month.
This was a retrospective study that involved 39,876 female health care workers completing food frequency questionnaires. At the beginning of the study, none of them had ARMD. 265 developed age-related macular degeneration by the end of the ten-year study. Few regular fish eaters developed the disease, but the ladies who skimped on fish were significantly more likely to get AMD.
The Harvard researchers deduced that regular consumption of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and fish was associated with fewer cases AMD, and may be beneficial in preventing AMD.
As many as 9 million adults over age 40 in the United States show signs of ARMD. This disease can lead to severe vision loss. Peripheral vision is unaffected by ARMD. The cells in the macula, at the center of the eye, deteriorate. This makes it difficult to read, write, drive, and recognize faces.
The disease progresses over time, and most treatments apply only to late stage or intermediate age-related macular degeneration. There are few medically recognized ways to prevent the disease except to avoid smoking. Therefore, preventing AMD is an important public health concern.
It is theorized that AMD and cardiovascular disease (CV disease, or heart disease) have similar mechanisms and risk factors. If this is true, then some of the existing research into preventing cardiovascular disease may apply to preventing AMD. Epidemiological studies have linked fish and omega-3 fatty acids with lowered rates cardiovascular events. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-atherosclerotic, antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects on the vasculature and help choroidal blood flow in the eye. Click for other research on Age Related Macular Degeneration.
Editor’s note: Nutrition is clearly a factor in the development of AMD; therefore, dietary supplementation may also mitigate AMD. Read our recommendations for macular degeneration.
Source: Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women by William G. Christen, ScD; Debra A. Schaumberg, ScD; Robert J. Glynn, ScD; Julie E. Buring, ScD. Arch Ophthalmol. 2011;129(7):921-929. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.34