By Mary Dinehart-Perry:
If you were to look at each decade of your life, you may find that over time your view on health and wellness has changed. In our earlier years eating right and exercising may be viewed more for vanity, and while this may continue, as we move on in our years, aging gracefully and avoiding disease begin to take center stage.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one disease we hope to avoid. For individuals over the age of 50, AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for which there is no cure. With AMD the macula, the small part of the retina that is responsible for our central vision and our ability to see straight ahead, becomes damaged (1). It may start as a blurred area in our central vision and either slowly or quickly progress. While it doesn’t result in complete blindness, it greatly impacts our ability to do everyday tasks (reading, driving, writing).
Studies have pointed to the potential role of inflammation in the development of AMD. While more research is being done to examine the underlying causes, the Inflammation Research Foundation collaborated on a study to test the role that omega-3 fatty acids may play in minimizing inflammation for those with dry AMD (this condition accounts for 90% of all AMD cases). A pilot trial was conducted with 25 individuals for a total of 45 eyes being tested. Individuals stopped taking supplements known for their role in eye-health prior to starting, were put on 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids for six months (3.4 grams EPA and 1.6 grams DHA) and were tested every six weeks. The visual acuity of individuals ranged from 20/25 to 20/200 at the start. The testing was straight forward, using a standard eye chart where the five letters on a line are progressively reduced in size in each line until one can no longer read any of the letters. All individuals taking the omega-3 fatty acids who participated saw significant improvement after six months (2). One-third of eyes improved by one line of vision (five letters), the other third by two lines of vision (10 letters) and the last third by three lines of vision (15 letters). All participants had one line of vision improved after 4.5 months. Since there is no known treatment for dry AMD, what makes this trial remarkable is that 100% of the patients saw their vision significantly increase within 4.5 months of treatment.
Additional studies have shown that the more you lower the AA/EPA ratio in the blood, the more rapidly and greater the extent of vision improvement.
In the words of Dr. Sears, sometimes medicine is not as complicated as we make it.
1. Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp#1. Accessed: August 22, 2014.
2. Georgiou T, Neokleous A, Nikolaou D, and Sears B. “Pilot study for treating dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with high-dose omega-3 fatty acids.” PharmaNutrition 2:8-11 (2014)
Mary Dinehart-Perry, MS, RD, LDN, is clinical-trials’ director at Zone Labs.