Fish high in omega-3 oils provide a rich source of the fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is a physiologically-essential nutrient in the brain and retina where it is found in high concentrations. For this reason fish oil rich in DHA is particularly beneficial for the eyes and brain. EPA is especially helpful for reducing inflammation. Together, EPA and DHA have been found to be helpful in a host of health conditions.
Recently, a couple studies have been published highlighting the visual benefits of fish oil. In one study involving 38,022 women, regular consumption of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish was associated with lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, which is a condition in older people that gradually destroys central sharp vision. Women who regularly consumed fish had a 42 percent lower risk.
The second study evaluated the way that omega-3 fatty acids work. The study found an effect that promotes healthy blood vessel growth while inhibiting abnormal blood vessel growth. Both retinopathy and macular degeneration involve abnormal blood vessel growth. Researchers isolated the compound which exhibited this effect—a metabolite of the omega-3 DHA.
Currently, an ongoing study through the National Eye Institute is underway looking at the benefits of fish oil supplements in people with age-related macular degeneration, and another study in Sweden is investigating the effects of omega-3 supplementation in premature infants who are deficient in omega-3 to determine if the supplement reduces the development of retinopathy. If so, this will lead to more studies.
The science behind EPA and DHA from fish oil span a wide range of health conditions, which highlights the importance of these oils for the body’s optimal function.