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Omega-3 fatty acids ward off macular degeneration

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by Aimee Keenan-Greene

Can adding more fish to your diet help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in women?

A new study in the Archives of Ophthalmology surveyed over 38-thousand women who were all healthy medical professionals and found the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can help you see better, longer.

In the large prospective cohort study, regular consumption of DHA and EPA and fish was associated with a 35 - 45 percent lower risk of visually significant AMD during 10 years of follow-up.

Study participants were part of the Women's Health Study, and completed a randomized trial of low-dose aspirin and vitamin E in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

All participants were 45 years or older at the beginning of 1993, and did not have a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer - except nonmelanoma skin cancer - or other major illnesses.

They were randomly assigned to receive aspirin (100 mg on alternate days), vitamin E (600 IU on alternate days), both active agents, or both placebos. The women completed a baseline questionnaire on which they provided information on possible risk factors for AMD and whether they had previously been diagnosed with AMD. 

The women also completed annual questionnaires on which they provided information on their compliance with pill taking and the occurrence of any relevant events including AMD. 

Women who saw benefits ate at least one or more servings of fish weekly.

Over the course of the 10 year study, 235 women developed AMD.

This study was conducted according to the ethical guidelines of Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Researchers say an estimated 9 million US adults over 40 show signs of age-related macular degeneration. 

Most cases of severe vision loss associated with the disease are due to advanced AMD, either central geographic atrophy or neovascular AMD, which affects an estimated 1.7 million people. 

Another 7.3 million Americans have early AMD, which is usually associated with moderate or no vision loss.

There is no recognized means of preventing AMD other than avoiding cigarette smoking.