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Eating food rich in omega-3, such as oily fish, could help some people avoid one of the most common causes of vision loss, a research review suggests.
The Annals of Ophthalmology review suggests omega-3 may cut the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by a third.
However, the Australian researchers stop short of encouraging everyone to eat more omega-3 for this reason alone.
An estimated 500,000 people in the UK suffer from AMD in some form.
“Prevention of this condition remains a major public health concern”….Spokesman, RNIB
it is a progressive and irreversible condition caused by thinning and bleeding around the macula – the central portion of the retina.
People with AMD, mostly over the age of 60, lose the ability to see fine detail, and, in severe cases, can choose to become registered blind, even though they still have some peripheral vision left.
Studies have already linked omega-3 fatty acids with a variety of health benefits, the most significant being suggestions that it can help people with heart disease.
The University of Melbourne study added up the results of nine previous studies on omega-3 and AMD, a total of 88,974 participants, including more than 3,000 with AMD.
Doing this gives the results more statistical strength – making it less likely than in the original nine studies that the findings are simply due to chance or some other confounding factor.
Eating fish twice a week was linked to a reduced risk of AMD, and a 38% reduction in risk was found when those eating the most omega-3 were compared with those eating the least.
Dr Elaine Chong, who led the research, said that omega-3 fatty acids were a vital component of the retina, and it was possible that a shortage of the chemical could “initiate” the disease as retinal cells were constantly shed and renewed.
However, she was cautious about recommending a change in diet, as little of the research analysed was set up to provide solid evidence.
“Although this meta-analysis suggests that consumption of fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with a lower risk of AMD, there is insufficient evidence from the current literature, with few prospective studies and no randomised clinical trials, to support their routine consumption for AMD prevention.”
A spokesman for the vision charity RNIB said that, given the high cost of treatment for one type of AMD, and the lack of treatment for the other, prevention was a “major public health concern”.
“The analysis of the existing evidence confirms that smoking is the only proven avoidable risk factor for AMD.
“We would welcome randomised controlled trials on the role that omega-3 fatty acids and fish consumption may be able to play in preventing AMD.
“In the interim we would encourage the government to do more to raise awareness of the link between smoking and blindness.”
Sources: BBC NEWS: 10Th. June, ’08