Consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such fish, nuts and olive oil may protect against development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a study has found.
Jennifer S.L. Tan, M.B.B.S., B.E., of Westmead Hospital, University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues examined 2,454 participants in the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which began in 1992 to 1994.
At that time, participants completed a food frequency questionnaire that was analysed to determine their intake of various fatty acids. Digital photographs of the retina were used to assess the development of AMD five and 10 years later.
After adjusting for age, sex and smoking, eating one serving of fish per week was associated with a 31 percent lower risk of developing early AMD.
The researchers found that association was stronger among individuals with a lower intake of linoleic acid, an unsaturated omega-6 fatty acid found primarily in vegetable oils.
They also found that eating one to two servings of nuts per week was associated with a 35 percent lower risk of early AMD.
According to researchers, these fatty acids may protect the eyes by preventing the build-up of plaque in the arteries or reducing inflammation, blood vessel formation and oxygen-related cell damage in the retina.
"In conclusion, our findings support the hypothesis that increased intake of omega-three polyunsaturated fatty acids and regular consumption of fish and/or nuts in the diet may protect against the development of early AMD," the authors said.
The study appears in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.