Fatty Fish May Cut Risk of Macular Degeneration
Study Shows Omega-3s in Fish May Reduce Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Role of Inflammation in AMD
Exactly how fatty fish and omega-3s may help reduce risk for AMD is not fully understood. But some research suggests that chronic inflammation may play a role in causing AMD. “Omega-3 fish oils are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s plausible that these anti-inflammatory properties could be of benefit,” says study researcher William G. Christen, ScD, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Using data from the Women’s Health Study, researchers analyzed the diets of 38,022 women with an average age of 54 who had not been diagnosed with AMD. During 10 years of follow-up, there were 235 cases of AMD reported.
“Among those people who really don’t have much AMD to begin with, the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA and fish intake may help prevent future development of AMD,” Christen says. “Fish and fish oils may be of benefit in the primary prevention of AMD.”
More research is needed to confirm these findings, he says.
Jack Cohen, MD, an ophthalmologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says that if omega-3 fatty acids could prevent AMD from occurring it would be “amazing.”
The new study “does show potential for prevention and that is where AMD research is the weakest,” he says.
This will be a great breakthrough, if it is true,” says Cohen, who is an ophthalmologist in private practice at Illinois Retina Associates in Chicago. “Women with good fish or fatty acid intake may never get AMD.”
Other risk factors for AMD -- including smoking, family history of AMD, and high blood pressure -- should also not be overlooked, he says.
“If a patient had no macular degeneration, I would tell them that an omega-3 fatty acid intake may be of some benefit down the line,” he says. “A serving of fish per week would be wonderful for people without AMD, and if they had some signs of AMD already, there is no harm in adding a serving or fish per week or DHA supplements.”