A new major study has found that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids helps protect your vision as you age. This piece of nutrition health follows what is routinely part of every doctor’s advice: regular consumption of fish is a good road to health.
In this case, researchers found that eating a healthy amount of fatty fish is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. The study, which focused on women, will appear in a June issue of “Archives of Ophthalmology.”
About nine million U.S. adults over 40 show signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Another 7.3 million people have early AMD, usually associated with moderate or no vision loss, but which carries the risk of progressing to advanced AMD. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of age-related blindness, an early symptom of which is a small blind spot in the centre of your vision.
Researchers in Boston collected data on 38,022 women who had not been diagnosed with AMD. They gleaned information on the women’s eating habits through a questionnaire at the beginning of the study. That included material on intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are potent omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon and sardines. They also gathered information on omega-6 fatty acids in the forms of arachidonic acid and linoleic acid.
During 10 years of follow-up, more questionnaires tracked the women’s eye health, with specific focus on diagnosis of AMD. They found 235 cases of AMD. Those women who consumed the most DHA compared with women who consumed the lowest amount had a 38% lower risk of developing AMD. Similar results were seen with the other omega-3, EPA.
They found that eating one or more servings of fish per week led to a 42% lower risk of AMD compared to eating that much fish per month. This lower risk appeared to be due mostly to canned tuna and dark-meat fish. As for the omega-6 fats, there was no observed benefit for vision protection.
So, as we age, and the threat of deteriorating vision becomes a reality, we can all do our bit to help ourselves. This study suggests that fish, once again a focus of nutrition health, could help keep blindness at bay.