Health Team

Eating fish can save eyesight

Posted December 3, 2010 1:19 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2010 6:23 p.m. EST

— A lifetime of eating fish – specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish – can help protect eyesight from age-related macular degeneration, according to new research.

Joelle Anderson is among the 2 million Americans with macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.

As Anderson gets older, macular degeneration is damaging her retinas.

"It's almost like a little grey cloud that's in the side of the eye," she said to describe the disease's effects.

The number of cases of macular degeneration is expected to grow to 3 million within the next decade, but a new study finds that diet might play a role in preventing the disorder.

Doctors found that people who eat fish regularly lower their risk for the disorder.

"We've looked at individuals who eat more omega-3 fatty acids in those diets, and those people have better-looking retinas and less macular degeneration," said Dr. Mark Fromer, an opthalmologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Researchers based their study on the eating habits of more than 2,500 elderly residents of Maryland. Those who had advanced macular degeneration were significantly less likely to have regularly eaten shellfish or fish like tuna or salmon.

Fromer said that a healthy diet equals healthy eyes.

"Colorful vegetables, fruits and nuts – those specific food products contain a lot of nutrients that are very healthy for the retina," he said.

It's unclear if taking omega-3 supplements has the same effect on eyesight as eating fatty fish.