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Eye Health Center

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Eating Fish May Preserve Eyesight

Study: Fish With Omega-3 Fats May Lower Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 15, 2007 -- Being called "fish eyes" may actually be a compliment. A new study shows people who eat at least two servings of fish per week are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) -- a common cause of blindness among older people.

Researchers found that people who ate a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids -- commonly found in tuna, salmon, and other oily fish -- were nearly 40% less likely to develop AMD than those who ate little of this heart-healthy type of fat.

Overall, eating more than one 4-ounce serving of fish per week was associated with the lowest risk for AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss among people over 65 in the U.S.

Fatty Acids May Foil Eye Disease

The study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, involved more than 4,500 men and women who were between the ages 60 and 80 when they enrolled in 1992 through 1998. At the start of the study, the participants filled out a questionnaire detailing the foods they ate regularly and were examined for AMD.

After adjusting for factors such as total calories consumed, age, race, and smoking history, researchers found that those who consumed the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, primarily from fish, were 39% less likely to have AMD. Compared to those who ate the least fish, those who ate the most or at least two or more servings of baked or broiled fish also had a 39% lower risk of AMD.

People who ate fish less often also seemed to enjoy some of these benefits. The study showed that those who ate more than one 4-ounce serving of baked or broiled fish per week also had a 35% lower risk of AMD.

Researchers from the Age-Related Disease Study Group in Rockville, Md., who conducted the study, say omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of AMD in a variety of ways, such as promoting healthy blood vessel function, influencing which genes turn on and off, and reducing inflammation.

Together with previous studies on omega-3 fatty acids and AMD, researchers say the results suggest that changing diet to include more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of the disease.

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