Ensuring long-term eye health

Omega-3 fatty acids protect against AMD, and the amount and quality of fats in the diet affect eye health, three new studies reveal.

A new omega-3 study from the U.S. National Eye Institute followed the diets of over 1,800 men and women who were likely to develop AMD. After 12 years, compared to those who consumed the least omega-3 fatty acids, those who consumed the most omega-3s, were 30 percent less likely to develop the two types of AMD, wet and dry. Researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be a low-cost, easily implemented preventive treatment for AMD.

In a related omega-3 study, researchers measured the diets of more than 2,100 people with signs of potential AMD in both eyes. After 12 years, those who had consumed the most eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) alone or combined with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were 50 percent less likely to have lost sight in the center of the field of vision, the most common characteristic of AMD.

In an AMD study, doctors measured the diets of over 1,300 women, aged 50 to 79, to see how fats might affect the chances of AMD. Women younger than 75, who ate a high-fat diet—averaging 43 percent of total calories—were 70 percent more likely to develop AMD compared to women who ate the least fat, 21 percent of total calories on average.

Doctors noted that polyunsaturated fat, such as omega-3 and omega-6 needed to be in balance. When omega-6s were too high compared to omega-3s, chances of AMD rose. Generally for women younger than 75, as saturated fats—which are usually from animal sources—increased, so did the chances of AMD. As monounsaturated fats—those from nuts and olive oil—increased, chances of AMD declined.

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