February 15, 2011

Fish Oil: Good For Vision

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Grab some walnuts and a plate of fish, new research shows Omega-3 fatty acids found in these foods may keep you seeing straight. Past research has shown that Omega 3's may help prevent human blindness, but a new study in mice reveals exactly how that works.

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in fish oil.  Several years ago researchers at Children's Hospital Boston determined that the fatty acids helped to prevent retinopathy, which is a major form of blindness that affects diabetics and premature babies. That same team conducted this follow up study.

For the study researchers fed mice a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, and found it prevented abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina. That means omega 3's could help prevent eye diseases like retinopathy, which are caused by an overgrowth of leaky blood vessels in the eyes.

The researchers also found the benefits of omega-3's are not affected by drugs such as aspirin or other painkillers. This is good news for diabetics who take aspirin to prevent heart disease.

"The ability to prevent these neovascular eye diseases with omega-3 fatty acids could provide tremendous cost savings, Lois Smith, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator on the study, was quoted as saying. "The cost of omega-3 supplementation is about $10 a month, versus up to $4,000 a month for anti-VEGF therapy. " she said, 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."

The fatty acids also activated proteins that improve insulin sensitivity. Those proteins are the same ones targeted by type 2 diabetes drugs. This means omega 3's could also be used to improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Source: Science Translational Medicine, February 14, 2011