Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The Benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Your Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help Prevent Vision Loss With AgeEating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts is a great way to improve your overall health. New research suggests that it might also help protect your eyesight as you grow older. The results of a study published in the August 2009 issue of the American Journal of Pathology showed that boosting omega-3 intake can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of severe vision loss among older Americans. The results of this research are supported by earlier findings. An analysis of nine separate studies involving a total of nearly 90,000 subjects showed that high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a 38 percent reduction in the risk of developing advanced AMD. AMD is a devastating disease in which affected individuals slowly lose their central vision, making reading, driving, and recognizing faces virtually impossible. It occurs when the macula, a structure in the retina of the eye, deteriorates over time. Omega-3 fatty acids are important structural components of the retina. Because the outer layers of the retina continually shed and rebuild, a steady supply of omega-3 from the diet is necessary to ensure the integrity and proper function of the eye. In addition to providing the necessary building blocks to make repairs to aging eyes, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may slow the deterioration of the macula by reducing tissue damage caused by oxidation and inflammation, and by enhancing blood flow to the eye. Omega-3 fatty acids aren't manufactured by the human body, so they must be obtained from foods in the diet. Good sources include olive oil and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Almonds, pecans, and other tree nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Following a study of nearly 2,500 adults, researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia reported that men and women who ate one to two servings of nuts each week enjoyed a 35 percent lower risk of AMD compared to those who ate nuts less often. While you're adding good fats to your diet, it's important to steer clear of the bad ones. Diets rich in trans fats, found in many baked goods and processed foods, have been linked to an increased risk of AMD. An adequate intake of vitamins and minerals is critical for maintaining healthy eyes. Regular consumption of two antioxidant plant compounds, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, has been shown to have protective effects against AMD. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found together in a number of fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, peas, corn, and tangerines. Green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are believed to be the best dietary sources of the antioxidant compounds. If your diet isn't what it should be, a nutritional supplement might be beneficial. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute demonstrated that daily supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and the minerals zinc and copper dramatically reduced the risk of vision loss associated with AMD. When it comes to protecting your vision, abstaining from smoking cigarettes is especially important. According to the results of a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, regularly smoking a pack or more daily for 40 years nearly triples the risk of AMD. Even if you don't smoke, your risk of developing AMD is likely to be doubled if you live with someone who does. Fortunately, it's never too late to quit -- the risks related to active and passive smoking tend to diminish with time. Getting plenty of exercise is another important strategy for maintaining the health of your eyes and the quality of your vision. In a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers found that vigorous exercise reduced the likelihood of developing AMD by up to 70 percent. Because there are very few treatment options for people suffering from advanced AMD, early diagnosis of the disease is especially important. If you're older than 40, you should have an eye exam every two to four years. For folks over the age of 65, it's a good idea to have an eye exam annually or at least every other year. Individuals with a family history of AMD should have their eyes checked more frequently. Eating a wholesome, nutritious diet and getting plenty of exercise will go a long way toward preserving your vision as you age. As a bonus, these same actions can help improve your overall health, and they might even extend your life. ======== Rallie McAllister is a board-certified family physician, speaker, and the author of several books, including "Fitness and Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim." Her website is www.rallieonhealth.com. To find out more about Rallie McAllister, M.D., and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.