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Eating Fatty Fish Can Help Aging Eyes

Study Shows Diet Rich in Omega-3s Helps Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 10, 2008 -- Eating fish at least twice a week may help protect your eyes as you age. A review of studies shows that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps ward off macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is the main cause of severe vision loss in people older than 60.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the central part of the retina, called the macula, begins to deteriorate. Macular degeneration slowly steals central vision, which is needed for tasks such as reading and driving.

Researchers analyzed nine studies that included 88,974 people; 3,203 of those participants had age-related macular degeneration.

Here are some of the results:

  • Compared with those with the least omega-3s in their diet, those with the most had a 38% lower likelihood for late AMD.
  • Eating fish twice or more a week compared with eating it less than once a month was linked to a drop in the risk of early and late AMD.

In an article alongside the results of the review the researchers write that a strength of the analysis is the sheer number of participants looked at, crossing language and culture barriers.

The previously completed studies were conducted in the U.S, Australia, France, and Iceland.

The researchers, including Elaine Chong, MBBS, of the Centre for Eye Research Australia, urge further study, adding that they don't recommend we all begin to gobble up omega-3s to prevent macular degeneration.

They stress that a focus on quitting cigarette smoking, (smoking being the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration) "remains an important public health strategy."

Which foods pack the biggest omega-3 punch? Omega-3s are found in oily cold water fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines. Flax seeds and walnuts are also rich in the fatty acids.

The review is published in the June issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

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