Omega-3 May Help Slow or Prevent Macular Degeneration

Omega-3 May Help Slow or Prevent Macular Degeneration

Over the last decade, ‘omega-3 fatty acid’ has been a perpetual trending supplement recommended as an effective health choice, particularly for cardiovascular assistance. It turns out that this essential fatty acid is crucial for cellular membrane function and, due to its ability to naturally reduce inflammation, may also help slow or prevent macular degeneration. 

Find out how this fatty acid could enhance your visual health and various ways to get enough omega-3 fatty acids to optimize your cellular performance. 

You Don’t Make It

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats essential for human health. However, they cannot be made by your body so they must be obtained through diet. Healthline reports on the many benefits of omega-3 which include:

  • Improves eye health
  • Enhances infant brain health
  • Improves bone and joint health 
  • Reduces ADHD symptoms in children
  • May prevent depression and fight anxiety
  • Reduces inflammation which may decrease cardiovascular risk

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids which are:

  • alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA can be found in plant-based sources such as chia seeds, walnuts, and flaxseeds but EPA and DHA are only derived from cold-water fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, herring, and sardines. However, non-animal ocean sources of these two compounds could be found in algae supplements for those on vegan or vegetarian diets. Also, it has been shown that ALA can be converted into small amounts of EPA and DHA but supplemental sources are still recommended.

Omega-3 for Macular Degeneration

Inflammation is a significant factor that presents in those that develop AMD. When blood vessels and surrounding tissue of the retina advance in size due to inflammation, your sight can be seriously affected. Although researchers are honing in on the process of such inflammation, the root cause still eludes science and no cure for macular degeneration has been developed as of yet. However, the combined components of ALA and especially EPA and DHA show significant assistance to visual health, particularly when it comes to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

In a study by researchers at Harvard and Brown University, published in the journal Ophthalmology, it was stated that,

“Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega3 (n3) fatty acid, is a major lipid component of retinal photoreceptor outer segment membranes that has anti-inflammation and anti-angiogenesis [development of new blood vessels] properties that could protect against AMD…Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), although not concentrated in the retina, is a precursor to DHA, and its metabolites could similarly affect the pathogenic processes of AMD.”

Another study by David Kiefer, Research Fellow, Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin, published in Agro Food Industry Hi-Tech Archive showed that,

“In one meta-analysis of nine studies involving a total of 88,974 people including 3,203 AMD cases, people that ate fish two or more times per week had a decreased risk of AMD. Other studies have corroborated this relationship, finding that increased n-3 may decrease the risk for AMD.”

Sometimes it is about defensive or proactive action that can help relieve the risks of AMD. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids as well as taking a supplemental protocol has shown, in these and many other studies, great promise for strengthening your vision. 

How Much Do You Need?

The jury is still out regarding how much omega-3 you need to increase your visual health and help slow or prevent macular degeneration. Yet, many medical professionals recommend maintaining a good amount in your diet for an optimal health response. 

All About Vision cites a variety of study results determining an effective protocol of dietary as well as supplemental omega-3 intake. It was reported that, 

  • In a large European study published in 2008, participants who ate oily fish (an excellent source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids) at least once per week had half the risk of developing neovascular (“wet”) macular degeneration, compared with those who ate fish less than once per week
  • A 2009 National Eye Institute (NEI) study that used data obtained from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found participants who reported the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30 percent less likely than their peers to develop macular degeneration during a 12-year period.

According to Dr. Richard Firshein, founder of the Firshein Center for Integrative Medicine, 

“As with many supplements, there is a difference between getting the nutrient from its source and getting it extracted into a supplement, My advice is always to get nutrients from foods first. With fish, twice per week would be ideal. Salmon and sardines are the best source of omega-3s, without the risk of excessive mercury exposure,”

Take note that eating too much fried or highly processed food can increase your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 has been linked to compromising the absorption of omega-3  which could put you at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration. Stick to the cold-water fish mentioned above, mackerel, sardines, herring, salmon and tuna. Keep in mind that wild-caught fish are usually better than farmed fish, due to higher levels of pollutants and chemicals that can be contained in the farming process. 

For non-fish eaters, taking an algae supplement can give you the EPA and DHA supplement needed. Add in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables for your ALA which, upon conversion, adds to your EPA/DHA formation.

Stay on top of your dietary and supplemental intake of omega-3 fatty acids which, according to science, may help slow or prevent macular degeneration. Until there is a cure, this is one of your best defenses against this debilitating disease that, to date, is on par for afflicting upwards of 22 million Americans in the not so distant future. 

Get regular eye checkups and talk to your doctor about omega-3 foods and supplementation to help you fight or avoid macular degeneration.