October is Eye Health Month. Here, find out how to lower your risk of serious vision loss from advanced age-related macular degeneration.
The health benefits of oily fish have been widely reported including reduced risk for heart disease, depression and certain kinds of cancers. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids has also long been thought to be good for maintaining eye health.
Research from Johns Hopkins University backs up previous studies showing that fatty fish-eaters tend to have lower rates of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) -- a condition where vision becomes increasingly blurry and distorted due to damage to part of the retina. This can impair basic daily activities such as reading, driving or even recognizing faces.
While there is no cure for AMD, there are some treatments and lifestyle changes that can help to prevent serious vision loss.
The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, says that omega-3 fatty acids -- found in oily fish such as salmon, albacore tuna and mackerel -- may affect the development or progression of AMD.
Researchers looked at data from 2,520 adults aged 65 to 84 who underwent eye exams and completed detailed dietary questionnaires. And while they found no clear relationship between participants' reported fish intake and the risk of AMD, there was a link between higher intake of omega-3-rich fish and the odds of having advanced AMD, the most serious stage of the condition.
In fact, participants who ate one or more servings of such fish on a weekly basis were 60 per cent less likely to have advanced AMD than those who averaged less than a serving per week. However, the relationship between participant's fish intake and the risk of AMD -- as opposed to advanced AMD -- was less clear.
The study took into account known risk factors such as gender, race and smoking habits, which have been previously connected with AMD. (Women face a greater risk of AMD than men, whites are at greater risk than African Americans and smokers face a higher risk than non-smokers.)
"While the current research indicates that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of late AMD in some patients, more research is still necessary," study leader Bonnielin K. Swenor from Johns Hopkins University told Reuters.
The fact that the study was "cross-sectional" -- meaning it analyzed participants at one point in time rather than following them over time – means that its difficult to know for sure if the participants' reported diet habits preceded the development of the eye disease.
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