In addition to supporting heart health and the other more well-known benefits derived from omega-3 intake, researchers have been studying the effects of EPA and DHA on age-related eye problems such as macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects central vision and impairs the ability to see objects clearly and engage in common daily activities such as reading and driving. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss amongst Americans 60 years or older, but it may occur during middle age. Presently, AMD affects more than 10 million Americans. According to the National Eye Institute, about 7 million Americans are at risk of severe vision loss from AMD.2
How Age Affects the Macula
The macula is part of the retina, located in the center and is made up cells called rods and cones that are sensitive to light. The function of the macula is to sharpen vision. In order to function properly, the macula needs to receive nutrients from a layer of blood vessels just beneath the macula called choroids. As you get older the transportation of nutrients and waste to and from the macula is not as efficient and waste begins to build up in the macula. Due to lack of blood, the cells in the macula are damaged and begin to die, affecting vision.
There are two types of AMD. Wet AMD, also known as advanced AMD, occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start growing under the macula. Because these new blood vessels are so fragile, they easily burst and leak blood and fluid which dislocates the macula. With wet AMD, damage to the macula occurs quickly leading to loss of vision. About 90 percent of cases of severe vision loss can be attributed to wet AMD.
Dry AMD is the most common type affecting 85 percent of those with AMD. Cells in the macula begin to degenerate. Symptoms begin with initial blurring of vision, need for light when reading and difficulty recognizing faces. As the disease progresses to an advanced stage, central vision is gradually lost.
According to the National Institutes of Health, common risk factors of AMD include smoking, abdominal obesity, cardiovascular disease, family history and long-term exposure to sunlight. Race and gender may also raise the risk of AMD with Caucasians more likely to lose their vision than African Americans and more women than men at a greater risk of AMD.3
Research Suggesting Omega-3 Benefits for Protection against AMD
- A well-known study, whose findings are consistent with previous research, reveals that a daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help slow down the development of both wet and dry forms of AMD, in both early and late stages. The study, conducted at Tufts University (Boston) was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, suggesting omega-3 benefits for those who already suffer from AMD. Findings, based on 3,000 people participating in a trial of vitamins and supplements, suggested that progression of AMD is 25 percent less likely in those who follow a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids intake. Researchers believe that omega-3 fatty acids may offer protection against AMD by altering fat levels in the blood that could damage the body after a meal.4
- Prior and more recent studies indicate that a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help minimize the risk of getting AMD by one-third. Several studies have shown that a low glycemic index diet, with a regular intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, could lead to a decrease in AMD progression.5
- A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary omega-3 fatty acid and fish intake in the primary prevention of age-related macular degeneration was published in the Archives of Ophthamology (June 2008). The review included nine studies providing collective data on 88,974 people including 3203 AMD cases. The data showed a high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 38 percent reduction in the risk of advanced AMD. In addition, those who ate fish at least twice a week were at less risk of developing both early and advanced AMD.6
- In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (August 2008), eating oily fish at least twice a week was inversely associated with AMD, indicating that dietary DHA and EPA may reduce the risk of AMD.7
- The December 2010 issue of Ophthalmology published a study conducted by the John Hopkins School of Medicine which collected food intake data from 2,391 participants aged 65 to 84 years. After data was collected, researchers tested participants for AMD and discovered that those who suffered from advanced AMD were those who consumed less fish and seafood.8
- In February 2011, the Science Translational Medicine featured a report by Harvard Medical School explaining the mechanism by which omega-3 metabolites reduce the growth of irregular blood vessels, a known cause of AMD. When omega-3 fatty acids are metabolized, they produce a 4-hydroxy-docosahexaenoic acid (4-HDHA), a chemical that reduces the abnormal development of blood vessels.9
Consumer awareness and interest in nutritional supplements for eye health is on the rise especially amongst the elderly. Because fish oil has an unpleasant odor and taste, the most popular and practical delivery method used by fish oil manufacturers is gel encapsulation.
What High-Quality Fish Oil Manufacturers Can Do for You
Omega 3 supplements offer consumers a convenient, easy way of getting omega 3s into their diet regularly for protective benefits against AMD. It is a cost-efficient, nutritional therapy for those who want to maintain eye health. Quality fish oil manufacturers can help you manufacture a pure fish oil supplement or customize a formula consisting of well-researched nutrients that offer particular benefits for protection against age-related macular degeneration. For products that contain fish oil with a high level of purity and omega-3 concentration, it’s best to work with fish oil manufacturers who work within a GMP-certified facility.
- Vitamin Supplement Use Survey Report, February 8, 2011. consumerlab.com/news/Vitamin_Supplement_Use_Survey_Report/1_31_2011/
- Facts about Age-Related Macular Degeneration, National Eye Institute, nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Causes and Risk Factors, National Institutes of Health (NIH), nihseniorhealth.gov/agerelatedmaculardegeneration/causesandriskfactors/01.html
- The rationale and evidence base for a protective role of macular pigment in age-related maculopathy, Br J Ophthalmol 2008;92:1163-1168 doi:10.1136/bjo.2007.135566. bjo.bmj.com/content/92/9/1163.abstract
- Nutrition and age-related macular degeneration, J Fr Ophtalmol. 2004 Nov;27(9 Pt 2):3S38-56. PMID: 15602406, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15602406.
- Dietary omega-3 fatty acid and fish intake in the primary prevention of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Jun;126(6):826-33. PMID: 18541848. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18541848.
- Oily fish consumption, dietary docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid intakes, and associations with neovascular age-related macular degeneration, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 2, 398-406, August 2008, ajcn.org/content/88/2/398.abstract
- The Impact of Fish and Shellfish Consumption on Age-Related Macular Degeneration Volume 117, Issue 12, Pages 2395-2401, December 2010. ophsource.org/periodicals/ophtha/article/S0161-6420%2810%2900377-5/abstract
- 5-Lipoxygenase Metabolite 4-HDHA Is a Mediator of the Antiangiogenic Effect of ?-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Sci Transl Med 9 February 2011: Vol. 3, Issue 69, p. 69ra12 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001571. stm.sciencemag.org/content/3/69/69ra12