Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Ward Off Eye Disease

Regularly eating fish and fish oil could prevent the onset of a certain type of age-related eye disease in women, a new study suggests.

Women who eat fish once a week are 42 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration over 10 years than women who eat it once a month or less, the study said.

And women who consumed the most docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA, one of the fatty acids that make up omega-3 fatty acid) over 10 years were 38 percent less likely to develop the eye disease than women who consumed the least DHA, said study researcher William G. Christen, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Consumption of canned tuna fish and dark meat fish seemed to have the biggest impact on reducing eye disease risk, according to the study.

Omega-3 fatty acids protect the eyes because they ward off inflammation that plays a part in age-related macular degeneration development, Christen said.

The study was published online today (March 14) in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.

Christen and his colleagues collected health data and information on eating habits from 38,022 women not diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration who were part of the Women's Health Study. After 10 years, 235 women had developed the eye disease.

Even though the researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids had a protective effect, they did not find that omega-6 fatty acids were protective, the study said.

The study was only in women, but the same beneficial effects of omega-3s are expected for men, too, Christen said.

Past research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids protect against eye diseases . But those studies only looked at omega-3 intake for advanced age-related macular degeneration, he said.

"Our findings appear to be the strongest evidence to date to suggest a possible benefit in primary prevention" of the eye disease, Christen told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Another study that also found a link between fish and eyesight was published last year in the journal Ophthalmology. In that study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that people who ate fish or shellfish once a week were 60 percent less likely to have advanced age-related macular degeneration than those who ate less than that amount.

Pass it on: Eating fish at least once a week could help prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Amanda Chan on Twitter @AmandaLChan.

Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.