Is omega 3 good for your eyes?
Fat is often mistakenly believed to be a bad thing, with so many of us going to extreme levels to avoid the nutrient for fear it may contribute towards bigger waistlines and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease. However, believe it or not, your body relies on a certain amount of fat for optimal health and that’s where fatty acids like omega 3 come into the picture.
Essential fatty acids are often known as the ‘building blocks’ of fat and they do play a vital role when it comes to supporting the function of muscles, nerves and organs. Omega 3 in particular holds many benefits for your health and is often referred to when it comes to cardiac health, brain function, your muscles and joints and even your skin – if you want to learn more, please take a look at our nutritionist Emma’s blog, ‘9 incredible health benefits of omega 3.’
Your eyes, however, are no exception and also rely on a healthy intake of omega 3 too. For example, did you know that around 30% of your retina is composed of DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid? When you consider this it’s no wonder omega 3 is so important for your vision! Below I’ve listed just a few ways that omega 3 can help with common eye problems and conditions.
- Dry eyes: Dry eyes affect many of us throughout the year, especially as so many of us spend much of our working lives in front of a computer screen. When it comes to your diet, you’re normally encouraged to eat foods that are rich in eye-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene and carotenoids, but omega 3 can contribute here too. One study examined the effects of omega 3 on those with Computer Vision Syndrome, with half the participants being obliged to take an omega 3 supplement for three months. After this time, these participants, in comparison to the placebo group, reported noticeable improves with their dry eye symptoms, with over 70% citing that they were symptom-free!1
- Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration occurs when the macula (an area of your retina which is responsible for central vision) becomes damaged. Sometimes this can occur as you age, which is referred to as AMD (Aged Related Macular Degeneration) and, unfortunately, treating the overall condition can be tricky. However, it’s thought that omega 3 may help to protect your eyes from macular degeneration although it will not stop the progression of the condition. Instead, a type of omega 3, DHA, is used by the retina to protect retinal cells from damage which can help to support healthy vision and keep the macula safe2
- Development of your vision: Okay, so omega 3 can help when it comes to macular degeneration but did you know it’s also crucial for when your vision is just developing? Since around 30% of your retina is composed of omega 3 this isn’t really that surprising but DHA can also affect young infants to recognise spatial detail, with studies demonstrating the benefits of omega 3 supplementation during pregnancy for infant’s visual acuity3
- Glaucoma: Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up inside the eyes due to poor drainage of fluid. Although animal studies have indicated that a diet rich in omega 3 may help to drain this fluid, how well these results translate to humans is always up for debate. However, in humans there has been evidence indicating that omega 3, in addition to B vitamins and vitamin E, may help to improve retinal sensitivity and visual fields in those with glaucoma.4
How can you get more omega 3 into your diet?
I imagine that many of you are already familiar with dietary sources of omega 3 – oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are famous for their rich content of omega 3 after all. But what if you’re vegan or vegetarian? How can you get an adequate intake of omega 3 from a plant-based diet?
There are plenty of foods that do contain ALA, an essential form of omega 3 that cannot be produced by your body. For example:
However, while ALA is a fantastic form of omega 3 that’s even capable of being converted into DHA and EPA, only a very, very small percent of omega 3 is ever converted. This can lead to concerns that vegans and vegetarians aren’t getting an adequate amount of omega 3’s other two vital forms which is where supplements may come into the picture. Fish oil is the most obvious option but, if you are vegan or vegetarian, this won't be an option for you. In this case, I recommend visiting your local health food store to see what is available.