It has long been known that Omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent some forms of blindness – and now researchers have found out exactly how they provide that protection.

The findings, published in the February 9th issue of Science Translational Medicine, demonstrate the protective mechanism of Omega-3’s. These fatty acids have a direct effect on blood vessel growth that selectively promotes the growth of healthy blood vessels and inhibits the growth of abnormal vessels.

This is good news for those with retinopathy, an eye disease that’s caused by the proliferation of leaky blood vessels in the retina, which is also the leading cause of blindness in America.

The study also suggests that Omega-3’s may be beneficial in the treatment of two other widespread diseases—diabetes, which is a disease that affects 4.1 million Americans and is expected to triple in the next 40 years, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that currently affects more than seven million Americans and will only increase as our population ages. The less common but more severe type of AMD, the wet form, is also caused by abnormal blood vessel growth.

The ability to prevent these abnormal blood vessels with Omega-3 fatty acids could provide tremendous cost savings, says ophthalmologist Lois Smith, MD, PhD, senior investigator on the study. “The cost of Omega-3 supplementation is about $10 a month, versus up to $4,000 a month for anti-VEGF therapy,” she says, referring to drugs such as Macugen and Lucentis used in AMD and diabetic retinopathy. “Our new findings give us new information on how Omega-3s work that makes them an even more promising option.”

Omega-3 fatty acids are usually highly concentrated in the retina, but they’re often lacking in Western diets.  You should aim to get at least one rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet every day. This could be through a serving of fatty fish, such as salmon, a tablespoon of canola or soybean oil in salad dressing or in cooking, or a handful of walnuts or ground flax seed mixed into your morning oatmeal.

For people who don’t eat fish or other foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, you should begin taking an Omega-3 supplement of 500 mg per day. And those taking aspirin and acetaminophen shouldn’t worry—the study provided reassurance that taking these drugs doesn’t reduce the benefits of Omega-3’s.

This information is brought to you by Clarin Eye Care Center. Please call or contact our office for more information.