Can omega-3 beat blindness?
29 June 2007
Omega-3 could help keep eyes healthy, say scientists. A tiny boost in this essential nutrient halves eye damage in mice, potentially saving their sight. Antenna takes a closer look...
This research was published in the journal Nature Medicine on 24 June 2007.
Blood vessels developing in a mouse retina.
Image: Chris Aderman
The growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye, shown here in a mouse retina, can eventually lead to the retina becoming detached, causing blindness.
Image: Kip Connor
Around 2 million people in the UK have a sight problem and over 370,000 are registered as blind or partially sighted. The most common cause of sight loss is damage caused by the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, the layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye.
Our bodies don't make omega-3 fatty acids, but oily fish such as salmon and mackerel are packed with omega-3, and nutrition experts recommend we eat at least one portion a week.
Image: iStockphoto.com/Maria Bacarella
Now scientists have found that omega-3 could protect the retina from damage. It's another plus point for this essential nutrient - scientists have already shown it reduces the risk of heart disease and could even boost brainpower.
Kip Connor, Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston.
Image: Kip Connor
Western diets are usually lacking in omega-3. A 2% increase would be equivalent to an extra gram a day.
Premature babies born before they are 27 weeks old miss out on a big transfer of omega-3 fatty acids from their mother.
Image: iStockphoto.com/Alison Hausmann
Barbara McLaughlan, Royal National Institute of Blind People.
Image: Royal National Institute of Blind People