Omega-3s: more evidence they prevent several forms of blindness

A new study by the research team at Children’s Hospital Boston has found that omega 3s can help to prevent an eye disease called retinopathy which is caused by out-of-control growth of tortuous, leaky blood vessels in the retina. Retinopathy affects many premature infants and over 4 million adults in the US.

Omega-3s also appear to stop another eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which currently affects 7 million Americans. Incidences of both these diseases are expected to increase as the population ages, which means that increasing food sources of omega-3s and taking supplements of the essential fatty acids could reduce the loss of vision and suffering caused by these diseases.

Omega-3s are highly concentrated in the retina, and they have a direct effect on blood vessel growth – they selectively promote the growth of healthy blood vessels and prevent growth of abnormal blood vessels.

The team, led by Dr Lois Smith, have managed to isolate the specific compound in the fatty acids that produces beneficial effects, a metabolite of the fatty acid DHA and the enzyme that produces it (5-lipoxygenase). The study showed that the enzyme activates the PPAR-gamma receptor, which is the same receptor targeted by drugs such as Avandia that are prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes to increase their sensitivity to insulin.

Dr Smith is currently working alongside investigators at the National Eye Institute in trials into omega-3 supplements in patients with AMD, until 2013.

National Center for Biotechnology Information PubMed

Top of page