(NaturalNews) A high intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil significantly decreases the risk of vision loss in old age, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Melbourne and published in the Annals of Ophthamology.
Researchers analyzed the results of nine prior studies on a total of 88,974 people, more than 3,000 of whom suffered from age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
In AMD, the central portion of the retina, known as the macula, thins and bleeds, leading to a progressive loss of the ability to see detail. In some cases, the loss of vision in the center of the eye is so severe that sufferers can be declared legally blind, although they retain some peripheral vision. AMD mostly strikes those over the age of 60, and cannot be cured or reversed.
The researchers found that those who ate fish twice per week had a lower risk of developing AMD, with those who consumed the most omega-3s experiencing a 38 percent lower risk than those who consumed the least.
Prior research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids, found mostly in oily fish, can improve heart and brain health. The fatty acids are known to be important in the structure of the retina, and lead researcher Elaine Chong suggested that a low omega-3 intake might lead to breakdown of the macula.
A spokesperson for the vision charity RNIB welcomed the results, but called for more research rather than encouraging everyone to eat more fish.
"The analysis of the existing evidence confirms that smoking is the only proven avoidable risk factor for AMD," the spokesperson said. "We would welcome randomized controlled trials on the role that omega-3 fatty acids and fish consumption may be able to play in preventing AMD. In the interim, we would encourage the government to do more to raise awareness of the link between smoking and blindness."