Vitamins and Minerals

Omega-3 For Macular Degeneration

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What science says about Omega-3 For Macular Degeneration

Scientists and medical experts have mixed opinions on the use of omega-3 for age-related macular degeneration.

Some experts suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can treat age-related macular degeneration. This is because two main omega-3 fatty acids in particular, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), play a role in preventing retinal inflammation and maintaining eye health.

DHA is essential for eye function because it makes up most of the retina. Healthcare professionals also argue that DHA prevents the toxic build-up of lipofuscin and A2E, which causes inflammation that damages the retina. Both EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation.

On the other hand, some medical experts disagree with the claim that omega fatty acids can strengthen and improve retinal function. This is because some studies show that omega-3 consumption makes no difference to the progression or prevention of age-related macular degeneration.

Thus, experts call for more research on the role of omega-3 in age-related macular degeneration before they can endorse it as a treatment option.

Opinion in favor of taking omega-3 to treat age-related macular degeneration:

Supporters of omega-3 consumption for eye diseases believe that omega-3 plays an important role in preventing age-related macular degeneration. This is because it contains two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that help support the retina’s functions.

The eye’s retina plays a key role in vision, converting light into images and sending signals to the brain, which helps people attach meanings to the objects that they see around them.

Fifty percent of the retina consists of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and inadequate consumption of omega-3 can lead to low levels of DHA in the body, which could alter retinal function and impair vision.

Therefore, consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 is essential to maintaining the structure and function of the retina and preventing age-related macular degeneration.

Some studies support this theory. For instance, a study titled “The role of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina” discusses how DHA contributes to retinal function. It also explains that low levels of DHA in retinal tissue can lead to poor vision and eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration.

Experts also argue that DHA prevents the toxic build-up of lipofuscin, a retinal pigment that is due to the debris that results from cellular wear and tear. DHA specifically protects against the effects of the accumulation of A2E, a component of lipofuscin that damages the retina.

One study, “Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation Prevents Age-Related Functional Losses and A2E Accumulation in the Retina,” explains one possible mechanism by which DHA protects the retina from A2E accumulation.

EPA also prevents age-related macular degeneration. Both EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation that is caused by A2E accumulation and the accumulation of free radicals in the retina.

Dr. William G. Christen, an eye specialist from Harvard, argues that omega-3 supplements are beneficial for age-related macular degeneration. He conducted a study on omega-3 and macular degeneration in women. The results of the study indicated that the vision of 42% of women improved after eating more than one serving of fish per week.

Skeptical views about taking omega-3 to treat age-related macular degeneration:

Opponents of the use of omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration agree that people need omega-3 in small amounts for overall health. However, they believe there is not enough evidence to support that omega-3 can protect the retina and prevent vision loss.

Despite numerous studies championing the benefits of omega-3, a 2013 study on age-related eye diseases found that omega-3 consumption made no difference to the treatment of age-related macular degeneration.

Odette Houghton, MD, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and one of the four authors of the study advised patients to take supplements of the antioxidants lutein or zeaxanthin instead of omega-3 because studies show that they are more effective at preventing age-related macular degeneration.

Thus, scientists need more evidence on omega-3 and its possible role in age-related macular degeneration, especially since the exact mechanism of action of omega-3 has not been proven yet. Research has also failed to agree on a recommended dose to treat the condition.

Published: December 2020

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