Don't Want Dry Eyes? Eat Your Tuna

Less Dry Eye Syndrome in Women Who Eat Lots of Tuna

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 20, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 20, 2005 -- Women who eat a diet rich in tuna are less likely to have dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome afflicts more than 10 million Americans. Artificial tears help but offer only temporary relief.

Might diet play a role? A clue comes from the nearly 40,000 female health professionals aged 45-84 enrolled in the Women's Health Study.

Brigham and Women's Hospital researcher Biljana Miljanovi?, MD, MPH, and colleagues looked at whether essential fatty acids -- the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and the omega-6 fatty acids found in meat -- play a role.

It seems they do. Women who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids had a lower risk of dry eye syndrome compared with those who ate the least.

Eating a diet rich in tuna -- the main source of omega-3 fatty acids in the American diet -- also helped.

Compared with women who eat less than one 4-ounce serving of tuna a week:

  • Women who ate two to four servings of tuna per week had a 19% lower risk of dry eye syndrome.
  • Women who ate five or six servings of tuna per week had a 68% lower risk of dry eye syndrome.

Balancing fish and meat consumption also helped. Women who got much more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids had a 2.5-fold higher risk of dry eye syndrome compared with those with more balanced fatty-acid intake.

"These findings suggest that increasing dietary intake of [omega-3] fatty acids may reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome, an important and prevalent cause of ocular complaints," Miljanovi? and colleagues conclude.

Don't like tuna? You can get omega-3 fatty acids from other fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring), flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.

The findings appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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SOURCES: Miljanovi, B. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2005; vol 82: pp 887-893. News release, Schepens Eye Research Institute.

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