Long Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the Reduction of Macular Degeneration Risk

Three recent large cohort-type studies have all come to similar conclusions regarding omega-3 fatty acids and Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). AMD is a degenerative retinal disease that causes central vision loss and leaves only peripheral vision. It is the leading cause of legal blindness for people over 55 years of age in the Western world, according to AMD Alliance International.
The first study published in May evaluated 6734 participants between ages 58 and 69 years of age over 4 years, and followed up 10-12 years later to access the association between AMD and diet. The conclusion was that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in trans-unsaturated fat as well as olive oil reduces the risk.

The second study, also published this May, looked at 3654 participants at baseline and 2454 were then examined 5 and/or 10 years later.

This study provides evidence of protection against early AMD from regularly eating fish, greater consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and low intakes of foods rich in linoleic acid. Regular consumption of nuts may also reduce AMD risk.

The third study was published this October by the National Eye Institute, and looked within the AREDS trial to see whether omega-3 LCPUFA intake was associated with a reduced likelihood of developing vascular and also neurological forms of AMD.
The 1837 higher-risk participants were evaluated, and the conclusion was the 12-year incidence was lowest for those reporting the highest consumption of omega-3 LCPUFAs, and stated “If these results are generalizable, they may guide the development of low-cost and easily implemented preventive interventions for progression to advanced AMD.”


Chong EW, Robman LD, Simpson JA, et al. Fat consumption and its association with age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 2009 May;127(5):674-80.

Tan JS, Wang JJ, Flood V, Mitchell P. Dietary fatty acids and the 10-year incidence of age-related macular degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Arch Ophthalmol 2009 May;127(5):656-65.

Sangiovanni JP, Agrón E, Meleth AD, Reed GF, Sperduto RD, Clemons TE, Chew EY. Omega-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2009 Oct 7. National Eye Institute, Bethesda, MD.