Omega 3 Fish Oil and Healthy Vision

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Omega 3 Fish Oil and Healthy Vision

None of the parts of your visual system – lens, retina or optic nerve – can function without large amounts of omega-3’s, especially DHA. In fact, even when we’re in a fasting state, the eye retains its DHA at the expense of using other parts of its retina for energy and other chemical functions. Of the fatty acid content of the retina, researchers estimate that 50-60% is in the form of the extremely beneficial DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids may play a major role in maintaining healthy vision and ocular function.

The Oil that Sharpens Vision

It’s been known for years that the highest visual acuity requires the presence of enough DHA to facilitate the chemical reactions of the visual cycle that ultimately result in a message sent through your optic nerve to your brain’s visual image interpretation center. Both the retina and the optic nerve need large amounts of DHA in an uninterrupted supply.

In addition to translating light into visual images, the chemical reactions of the visual cycle generate very large amounts of oxidizing by-products, or free radicals.23

Adequate amounts of DHA, obtained through the circulation from the diet and dietary supplementation, will perform antioxidant functions within the eye and optic nerve and will defend the eye and related structures against uncontrolled free radical oxidation. An interesting study published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science revealed that supplementing the supply of DHA available to the retina supports the antioxidant activity within retinal neurons and promotes healthy vision.23 The antioxidant actions of DHA benefit the entire eye and protect the function of its vital components.

Further research shows that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish also supports the health of the macula. The macula of the eye is near the center of the retina and contains a high concentration of cone cells, which play a significant role in central vision. Researchers have conducted a meta-analysis of studies that was published in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology. An evaluation of published studies led scientists to conclude that the consumption of 2 or more servings of fish per week and high intakes of their omega-3 oils seemed to play an important role in protecting macular function.24 Of course, as the authors mentioned, additional randomized controlled trials are needed to fully assess the effects of omega-3 intake on macular health, However, the results of this analysis were extremely promising. Ensuring optimal omega-3 fatty acid intake, with a particular emphasis on DHA, can lead to promotion of healthy visual function as we age.

Tomorrow’s topic: Fish Oils and the Immune System

23. Rotstein NP, Politi LE, German OL, Girotti R. Protective effect of docosahexaenoic acid on oxidative stress-induced apoptosis of retina photoreceptors. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2003;44:2252-2259.
24. Chong EW, Kreis AJ, Wong TY, Simpson JA, Guymer RH. 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;126(6):826-33.

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