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Eating fish protects your eyesight

Regular consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women.

Eating fish protects your eyesight

Regular consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women. Fish oil has long been thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease.

About 9 million U.S. adults over the age of 40 years experience some degree of AMD. Most have an early-stage form of the disease, while about 1.7 million have the advanced stage of illness that results in a serious loss of vision. To date, there is no recognised method, aside from advising patients not to smoke cigarettes, to prevent or slow the onset of AMD among those who do not have the disease or only display the symptoms of early illness.

In this study, researchers performed a dietary analysis on 38,022 American women to explore how diet might function as prevention too by examining tens of thousands of food questionnaires completed by female health professionals who were enrolled in a heart disease and cancer prevention trial. They provided information on intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) [Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish], and arachidonic acid and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids).All of the participants were in their 40s at the time of enrollment in 1993, and none had AMD at the study's start. During ten years of follow-up, additional questionnaires tracked the women's eye health, with specific focus on diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration.

Over the course of follow-up, 235 cases of age-related macular degeneration were reported. It was found that those who consumed the greatest amount of one or both omega-3 fatty acids (DHA, EPA) were found to have a 38 percent lower risk of developing AMD compared with those women who consumed the least. The team observed that older women were more likely to consume higher amounts of both omega-3 fatty acids as well as omega-6 fatty acids. Specifically, women who ate one or more servings of fish every week had a 42 percent lower risk of AMD than those who consumed fish just once a month or less. This lower risk appeared to be due primarily to consumption of canned tuna fish and dark-meat fish. Although the authors uncovered a suggestion that higher consumption of one of the omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) might actually boost the risk for AMD, that link was not deemed significant after adjustment for other risk factors and fats.

This latest evidence of a protective link between fish oil and eye health mirrors past research that has found the same benefit. Though the above findings are the strongest evidence to date that omega-3 fatty acids protect against the onset of AMD, further research is needed to define the mechanism.
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