A new study shows that omega-3 fatty acids could help with wet macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is expected to increase by 50% in older adults in industrialized countries by 2020. As the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly, it is a condition of serious significance. The macula is the central part of the retina. While it makes up only about 2% of the total retina, the brain devotes half of its visual processing network to information from the macula. It is responsible for central vision. The retina is a thin layer of nerves and visual receptors at the back of the eye that houses the rods and cones. It transmits visual signals to the brain. It is supported by the choroid, a network of blood vessels that feed and nourish the retina.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. In wet macular degeneration the chief cause of vision loss is the growth of new blood vessels (neovascularization) in the choroid. These new blood vessels then leak blood, adding debris that clouds the retina and sometimes results in a retinal detachment. One potential treatment for wet macular degeneration is reducing neovascularization (new blood vessels) with a series of injections such as Lucentis, Avestin or Eylea.
A new in vivo study shows that omega-3 fatty acids can radically reduce neovascularization in the choroid. The effect seems to be the result of metabolites of omega-3 fatty acids produced by the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. Mice fed omega-3’s had statistically significant lower rates of neovascularization. This offers promising hope for those suffering from wet macular degeneration, which comprises about 10% of all AMD cases.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found most plentifully in fish oil and krill oil, which is readily available in health food stores. There are vegetarian versions as well through algae sources.
Study: Cytochrome P450-generated metabolites derived from ω-3 fatty acids attenuate neovascularization, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1401191111