You might think this to be a fishy story but according to 2 studies reported in the May issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, the regular consumption of fish, nuts, olive oil, and other foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and the avoidance of trans fats appear to be associated with a lower risk for developing an eye disease called Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD),

AMD, which is the most common cause of central vision loss in people over the age of 60, destroys the macula, a group of light-sensitive cells in the central part of the retina. The macula allows for sharp central vision and the perception of fine detail.

Eye with age related macular degeneration

While the progression of age related macular degeneration cannot be stopped, it can be slowed. According to the one study, older women who consumed one or two portions of fish a week could reduce their risk of sight loss by up to 42 percent. Salmon, tuna, sardines and other oily dark meat fish are recommended since they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

According to two presentations at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, dietary omega-3 fatty acids but not beta-carotene supplementation is associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD),

“Higher intake of omega n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) and fish was associated with decreased risk of having neovascular AMD after adjusting for nutrient- and nonnutrient-based predictors and correlates of AMD,” write J. P. SanGiovanni, from the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues.”

Total fish consumption of more than two servings per week was associated with a decreased risk for neovascular AMD compared with no fish in the diet (OR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.28 – 0.84). Having more than one four-ounce weekly serving of broiled or baked fish (OR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.44 – 0.94) or tuna (OR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.45 – 0.98) also protected against neovascular AMD.

Eating two to three servings of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, shellfish, and herring every week would achieve the recommended daily intake of Omega 3 docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). However, the majority of western people eat a much lower level than recommended.

Chart describing the function of Omega 3

In a third presentation at the meeting, K. A. Trivedi and colleagues from Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, suggested that women with a higher dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids were also at a decreased risk of developing dry eye syndrome (DES). Of 39,876 women participating in the Women’s Health Study, 32,470 female health professionals aged between 45 and 84 years provided information on diet and DES.

The highest versus the lowest dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with decreased risk of DES (OR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.70 – 0.98; P for trend = 0.04), after adjustments for age, other demographic factors, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and total fat intake.

“Taken together, these data indicate that consuming a diet with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and low-GI foods may delay compromised vision due to AMD,” says Allen Taylor, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts and Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM). “The present study adds the possibility that the timing of a dietary intervention as well as the combination of nutrients recommended may be important.”

“The evidence on omega-3 fatty acids and the beneficial effects for individuals with AMD is beginning to accumulate,” said Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Programs at Lighthouse International. “The conclusion that most researchers agree on [at this point] is to stop smoking and eat a healthy diet in order to preserve vision.

So if you have AMD, you should consider taking supplements that contain anti oxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin or omega-3 poly-unsaturated fats.

Or even better yet, eat one serving of a vegetable every day that contains a lot of lutein and zeaxanthin such as spinach, kale, broccoli or brussels sprouts and have two servings per week of omega-3 oil which is naturally found in fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, trout, halibut and plant oils like soybean- ,flax seed- and walnut oil.

And that’s no fishy tail…