Eating Fish Protects Against Macular Degeneration
By Archives of Ophthalmology
Jul 12, 2006, 05:53

In a study, Brian Chua, B.Sc., M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Westmead Millennium Institute and Vision Co-operative Research Centre, Syndney, Australia, and colleagues examined the association between dietary fat intake and AMD risk in 2,895 Australians age 49 years or older, beginning in 1992-1994. At the beginning of the study and again five years later, participants had a comprehensive eye exam that included photographs of the retina. They also filled out a questionnaire with data about food types and portion sizes consumed, including specific information about margarines, butters, oils and supplements.

Of the 2,335 participants who participated in the five-year follow-up, 158 had developed early AMD and 26 late-stage AMD. After adjusting for other factors that may influence risk, including smoking, age, sex and vitamin C intake, those in the group with the highest intake of polyunsaturated fat had a 50 percent reduced chance of developing early AMD compared with those who ate the least. Those who ate fish once a week had reduced risk of early AMD by 40 percent compared with those who ate fish less than once per month, and those who ate fish three or more times per week also had reduced risk for late-stage AMD. Contrary to previous studies showing an increased risk for AMD with higher unsaturated fat intake, no link was found between AMD and consumption of butter, margarine or nuts, which all contain high levels of unsaturated fats.

"To explain our findings, we suggest that insufficient essential fatty acid intake could result in abnormal retinal metabolism and cell renewal," the authors write. "Studies have shown cardioprotective benefits of monounsaturated fatty acids in the Mediterranean diet and that diets high in n[omega]-3 fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid, derived largely from fish, may protect against retinal oxidation and degeneration. Our finding that at least weekly fish consumption was protective against incident early age-related maculopathy provides support for this hypothesis."

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