Regular consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish is associated with a significantly reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration in women, according to a report posted online today in the Archives of Ophthalmology.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that attacks the central part of the retina called the macula, which controls fine, detailed vision. The condition results in progressive loss of visual sharpness making it difficult to drive a car, read a book and recognize faces. AMD, in varying stages of severity, affects more than two million Canadians over the age of 50 and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older adults.
Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston collected data on 38,022 women who had not been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. Information on women's eating habits was obtained via questionnaire at the beginning of the study and included information on intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish), and arachidonic acid and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids). During ten years of follow-up, additional questionnaires tracked the women's eye health, with specific focus on diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration.
Over the course of follow-up, 235 cases of age-related macular degeneration were reported. Women who consumed the most DHA compared with women who consumed the lowest amount had a 38 percent lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Similar results were observed for higher intake of EPA and for higher consumption of both types of omega 3 fats together.
Results for fish intake showed that consumption of one or more servings of fish per week, when compared to less than one per month, was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of age-related macular degeneration. The lower risk appeared to be due primarily to consumption of canned tuna fish and dark-meat fish.
For omega-6 fatty acids, higher intake of linoleic acid but not arachidonic acid was associated with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, however this association was non-significant after adjustment for other risk factors and fats.
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