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A recent study has concluded that consuming lots of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the likelihood of developing age related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in people more than 60 years of age.

Consuming lots of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the likelihood of developing age related macular degeneration

AMD is caused by damage to the retina or because of abnormal growth of blood vessels behind the retina resulting in impaired vision. The damage once caused to the retina cannot be reversed. So it is necessary to focus on methods to prevent the onset of retinal damage in order to avoid AMD. Until now, giving up on cigarettes was the only known method to stall AMD.

But according to the latest study, consuming a lot of omega-3 fatty acids may also prevent AMD. According to the study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, eating docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) found in fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, herring and sardines can result in prevention of AMD. Many plants and nut oils are also sources of omega 3s: almonds, wallnuts, butternuts, seeds, beans and whole grains, algal oil, flax, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soy and canola oil etc.

Diseases of the cardiovascular system and AMD are believed to have similar iteology and share the same risk factors. Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has an anti inflammatory and anti atherosclerotic action and prevents thrombosis in the blood vessels. It has been hypothesized that these fatty acids may be exerting a similar action on the choroidal blood vessels of the eye. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids are an important morphological part of the retinal photo receptors and the retinal blood vessels. Therefore, it is felt that may play an important role in the development of AMD.

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in elderly people

Around 9 million people in the US above the age of 40 have some symptoms of AMD. Out of them, 1.7 million persons suffer from advanced AMD which is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly people. AMD is responsible for the gradual loss of the sharp, central vision which is required for visual clarity. AMD is a painless disease affecting the macula, a part of the retina meant for observing the fine details. AMD is of two types: wet and dry. Wet AMD occurs due to the growth of new blood vessels with fragile walls, behind the retina in the region of the macula. Rupturing of these blood vessels raises the macula and damages it resulting in rapid decline of the central vision. Dry AMD results because of damage to the photo receptor cells of the retina leading to gradual blurring of the central vision. It usually affects both the eyes though the loss of vision may be more in one eye as compared to the other.

At present, treatment is available for only a few patients with late stage neo-vascular AMD and some cases of intermediate AMD. For all other stages, prevention is the only option available till some form of treatment is found for them. In such a scenario, studies linking increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids to reduced instance of AMD suggest a good way of preventing the disease.

  • Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. National Eye Institute. August 2010
  • William G. Christen, ScD, Debra A. Schaumberg, ScD, Robert J. Glynn, ScD, Julie E. Buring, ScDDietary {omega}-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women. Published online March 14, 2011