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Healthful Fish for Healthy Eyes
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by Randy Hartnell 

You’ve probably heard that cooking greens (spinach, kale, etc.) contain antioxidants that help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness as we age. But new research suggests that, like cooking greens, the oils in dietary fish may help prevent macular degeneration. Even better, fish oils may also help prevent dry eye syndrome—another common problem of aging eyes.

The authors of the two studies that produced these findings reported their results this past May at the meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
  • Macular degeneration: This blinding affliction degrades the center of the retina—the multi-layered, light-sensitive membrane at the back of the eye. Researchers at the National Eye Institute discovered that people who ate fish more than twice a week were half as likely to get macular degeneration as those who ate no fish at all, while more than one portion of fish or tuna per week lowered the risk by a third. They suspect that this result is traceable to the effects of dietary DHA: an omega-3 fatty acid abundant in both fish oil and the eye’s light-sensing cells. Their results were obtained by examining the diets and health histories of 4,513 participants in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, aged 60-to 80-years.
  • Dry Eye Syndrome: Researchers at Harvard's Eye Research Institute analyzed data from 32,470 female health professionals in the famous Women's Health Study. Participants whose diets were highest in fish—especially tuna, which is the most commonly consumed fish high in omega-3 fats—had the lowest incidence of dry eye syndrome. Women who ate five or six four-ounce servings of tuna every week reduced their risk by 66 percent.

  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., May 4-9, 2003, program numbers 811, 2111, and 2112.

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