Omega 3 fatty acids, long recommended in a heart healthy diet, have also shown recent potential for benefiting cognitive health. Now, one of the two Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, has also demonstrated protection against age-related vision loss in laboratory tests.
The research team, based in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta, discovered in their study that lab models fed DHA did not accumulate a toxic molecule called A2E; this molecule is a specific residue of lipid metabolism known as a lipofuscin. Typically these metabolic leftovers accumulate at the back of the eyes over the course of many years, and eventually the toxin builds up in the retina and causes vision loss.
“In normal aging, this toxin increases twofold as we age. But in lab tests, there was no increase in this toxin whatsoever. This has never been demonstrated before—that supplementing the diet with DHA could make this kind of difference,” according to the research team, led by Yves Sauvé, of the departments of ophthalmology and physiology at the university. “This discovery could result in a very broad therapeutic use.”
The team has recently begun a related study of greater depth, looking at people who have age-related macular degeneration, a condition that results in loss of central vision and is the main cause of blindness in people over the age of 50. The researchers will look for DNA markers in the blood of study participants, determining whether participants with certain genetic markers will respond better to increasing amounts of DHA in their diet.
We look forward to those results and their implications. In the meantime, the case for Omega 3s seems to have become still stronger, and its benefits in the world of human nutrition to have diversified still further.