Visual Benefits of Omega 3
Have you heard about Omega 3 Fatty Acid?
If you have been looking at the supplement and vitamin displays in your local pharmacy or market, or if you follow trends in those areas, you will have heard of omega-3 fatty acids. These are one of the few types of fat that are not usually found in the normal “American” diet.
What are the visual benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Right now, there is a long-term trial looking at the effect of supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids in relation to the health of the retina and other parts of the eye. The study, called AREDS 2. It seems very likely that your eye care professional may be telling you to take these as supplements if you are not already doing so.
What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are also known as PUFAs. All PUFAs are not the same. Most of the PUFAs in vegetable oils are omega-6 fatty acids and people usually get plenty of these. This is not the case with omega-3 fatty acids, because the best source of omega-3s is fish, which tends to be missing from the diets of many people. These fatty acids are very important for heart health and the health of blood vessels all over the body.
Different kinds of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There three main omega-3 PUFAs, with really long names are known by their initials as ALA, EPA, and DHA. EPA may be more beneficial for the heart, while DHA may be more important for brain health. ALA is converted to small amounts of the other two by your own body. EPA and DHA are really only found in fish, especially fatty fish. Vegetables and vegetable oils have ALA in addition to omega-6 fatty acids.
What EPA and DHA do?
Many studies have been done that have pointed to the importance and benefits of Omega 3 Fatty acids(EPA and DHA) for good heart health. They are good for the blood vessels that deliver blood to all the important organs in the body, including the heart, the brain, and the kidneys. A large part of heart disease and other diseases of blood vessels may be caused by what is called oxidative stress or oxidative damage. This kind of damage can happen to any blood vessels over time, with those in the retina at more risk because of their intense exposure to light.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids for the heart
There are many benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids for heart health that the American Heart Association recommends that either fish or fish oil be eaten on a regular basis. There are many ongoing research projects in which large numbers of people are taking omega-3 supplements so that doctors can see and understand the long term benefits. There are questions, still, about the best amount to take, what the best source is, and which omega-3 is the most important.
Omega 3 Benefits for the retina
What does this have to do with your eyes? The retina, at the back of the eye, is supplied with blood via many blood vessels. Diseases of the retina, including Age Related Macular Degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are caused by problems with the blood vessels. Researchers have spent many years looking for ways to try and prevent or stabilize these retinal conditions, because current treatment for them is not as effective as eye doctors would like.
DHA, EPA and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
DHA is present in the retina in high concentrations. There have been many studies showing an association between the health of the retina and consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, both DHA and EPA. For example, there was one study of twin pairs showing that the risk of AMD was lower in the twin who ate the most omega-3 fatty acids.
How do omega-3s help the retina?
Omega-3 fatty acids may be needed in the eye because they are actually used by many cells in the retina. They may also help the eye because they stabilize blood vessels, and thereby slow down retinal damage due to AMD. One of the benefits of omega 3 is that They may prevent oxidative damage to the eyes. Or it may be that omega-3 fatty acids do all of this and more.
Is this being studied?
However, whether or not increasing intake of omega-3 fatty acids actually helps prevent or stabilize AMD or other retinal disorders has to be studied in large, well-designed trials. AREDS 2, which is the right kind of trial, will hopefully answer a lot of the questions about the visual benefits of omega 3 fatty acids.
AREDS and AREDS2
AREDS 2 is following AREDS, which was the first large-scale trial to look at supplements and eye health. AREDS evaluated the long term effects of supplementation with antioxidant vitamins. This was particularly aimed at finding ways to prevent or slow down age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of severe vision loss in the developed world. The effects on other measures of eye health were also monitored.
The success of AREDS
AREDS was a success in finding that a combination of antioxidant vitamins and supplements appeared to slow down macular degeneration, but only if it was advanced. The main components of AREDS include vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, given at doses much higher than what is in a general multivitamin.
AREDS helps advanced AMD, and possibly more
While these supplements only benefited people who already had advanced AMD, other studies have shown that diets rich in these substances are associated with a lower risk of developing AMD to begin with. Eye care professionals now recommend the AREDS vitamins or a modification of them for their patients.
What is different about AREDS 2?
With AREDS 2, a second study was started, changing the formula somewhat and adding other ingredients that might protect against AMD. Omega-3 fatty acids were a key addition to the new formula. AREDS 2 began in 2006, and results are expected at the end of 2012.
What will AREDS 2 tell doctors?
While much evidence has accumulated showing that there are many benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids for the eyes, AREDS 2 will be the first large scale trial looking at whether or not supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids as well as the carotenoids will improve eye health. These answers will be used to formulate the best supplements for retinal and eye health possible.