You probably know the heart health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of two servings of cold-water fish weekly to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But did you know that many eye doctors likewise recommend a diet high in omega-3s to reduce the risk of eye problems?
Several studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from many vision difficulties, including macular degeneration and dry eye syndrome. Essential fatty acids may also help proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, decreasing the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma.
In one study published in 2008, participants who ate oily fish rich in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids at least once per week had half the risk of developing “wet” macular degeneration, compared with those who ate fish less than once per week.
Another study from the National Eye Institute (NEI) used data obtained from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and found participants who reported the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30 percent less likely than their peers to develop macular degeneration during a 12-year period.
Omega-3s have also been found to reduce the risk of dry eyes. In a study of more than 32,000 women between the ages of 45 and 84, those with the highest ratio of (potentially harmful) omega-6 fatty acids to beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in their diet (15-to-1) had a significantly greater risk of dry eye syndrome, compared with the women with the lowest ratio (less than 4-to-1). The study also found that the women who ate at least two servings of tuna per week had significantly less risk of dry eye than women who ate one or fewer servings per week.
Most recently, a 2015 study found that taking daily omega-3 supplements could help relieve dry eyes associated with computer use. Study participants were 456 computer users in India who complained of dry eyes and who used a computer for more than three hours a day for at least one year. At the end of a three-month trial, a survey of the participants revealed dry eye symptoms diminished after dietary intervention with omega-3 fatty acids, and use of the omega-3 supplements also reduced abnormal tear evaporation. The omega-3s also increased the density of conjunctival goblet cells on the surface of the eye. These cells secrete substances that lubricate the eye during blinks, stabilize the tear film and reduce dryness.
Study authors concluded that orally administered omega-3 fatty acid supplements can alleviate dry eye symptoms, slow tear evaporation, and improve signs of a healthy eye surface in patients suffering from dry eyes related to computer vision syndrome.
Based on these studies, supplementation with high-quality omega-3s is beneficial for optimal vision health.