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Home » What's New » Worth the Burp? – Fish Oil/Omega-3 and Eye Health

Worth the Burp? – Fish Oil/Omega-3 and Eye Health

-The EYE Digest-

Worth the Burp? – Fish Oil/Omega-3 and Eye Health

Nutritional supplements, dieting, and general health have been all the rage in recent years, and for rightful reasons. The sudden focus on health consciousness in popular culture has enabled individuals to both heighten their quality of life and live longer.

One nutritional supplement that seems to get quitecod liver oil in fish shape a bit of media attention is fish oil, or more specifically the fatty acid it contains: Omega-3. This fatty acid, contained in a variety of cold water fish species, is found in three forms: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicoapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It has been hailed as an anti-inflammatory that can help the body in multiple ways, including benefits to the brain, blood, joints, and eyes.

So how specifically does Omega-3 help the eyes? We can break down the possible benefits into four avenues:

1) Dry Eye Syndrome

2) Age-Related Macular Degeneration

3) Glaucoma

4) Infant Vision Development

 

1) Dry Eye Syndrome

Research has shown that an Omega-3 supplement can have a remarkable effect on dry eye syndrome. Although the exact mechanism that allows omega-3 to help dry eye syndrome is still a matter of debate, many clinical studies and anecdotal evidence from practitioners have pointed to the effect being present. Specifically, a March 2011 study in Cornea showed an increase in tear production via Schirmer’s Test, 2 14179 0while a 2012 ARVO study showed stabilization in topographical cornea stability with Omega-3 supplementation.

The most common theory is that the anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3 fatty acids allow the eyes to produce a larger amount of tears. Often included as part of a regimen that includes artificial tears, warm compresses, and environmental/lifestyle changes; Omega-3 supplementation can render significant benefit to individuals suffering from dry eyes.

For dry eye treatment with Omega-3, a minimum daily dosage of 1000 mg is recommended, while a dosage of up to 3000 mg may prove to be more efficacious.

 

2) Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Certain research has shown that Omega-3 supplementation may stave off the early progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), however the results have been controversial. The Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), conducted in 2009 by the National Eye Institute (NEI), showed nutrition forest fish oil softgelthat individuals with the highest concentration of Omega-3 in their diet were 30 percent less likely to develop AMD than peers that did not have this high concentration.

This information seemed to be a great breakthrough for AMD treatment, but then AREDS II came out. In this study, supplementation of Omega-3 alongside the AREDS formula of beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, copper and zinc for a five year period was found to be no more effective than the control group.

So what does this mean?

These studies suggest that the efficacy of Omega-3 on AMD may be more dependent on long term supplementation rather than a set period (such as the five year period used in AREDS II). Additionally, researchers have suggested that Omega-3 derived from a food source versus a capsule may have more of a benefit for AMD prevention.

 

3) Glaucoma

Omega-3 has been shown to have a possible two-fold benefit when it comes to glaucoma: lowering eye pressure and improving retinal blood flow. In regards to lowering eye pressure, a study conducted in 1992 had researchers inject cod oil into the muscle tissue of rabbits.

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They found that after injection, there was noticeable drop in intraocular pressure (IOP) of the rabbits. A later study done in 2007 on mice showed that a diet rich in Omega-3 resulted in lower eye pressure versus the control group.

The idea of improving retinal blood flow stems from many studies that show overall improvement in blood flow from Omega-3 supplementation. It is thought that this increased retinal blood flow can subsequently lower the risk of ischemia (lack of oxygen) to the retina and in glaucoma’s case, to the optic nerve.

 

4) Infant Vision Development

Omega-3 also has benefits in infant vision development. Studies published in Pediatrics found IM UO schefstrom eyes 10that pre-term infants who were supplemented with Omega-3 showed significantly better best-corrected visual acuity at ages two then four.

Similar studies have pointed to the importance of Omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy. Especially when started before or at the fourth month of pregnancy, Omega-3 supplementation may help lead to better vision development for infants.

 

In conclusion, we can see many ways that fish oil and Omega-3 can benefit the eyes. While the evidence for some eye benefits are more concrete than others, the addition of an Omega-3 supplement to one’s diet can be nothing but helpful for ocular longevity. If you have more questions about Omega-3 or want to have an eye exam, do not hesitate to contact us!

 

-Dr. Aaron Neufeld

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Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.

Contact him with questions or ideas for future articles at (650) 948-3700 or aneufeldod@gmail.com