Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a serious problem. I just saw a 58-year-old woman the other day who is very concerned about it. Both of her parents lost their vision from ARMD. And her last eye examination showed the presence of drusen. Drusen are yellow deposits under the retina that are an early indication of impending ARMD. So is there anything out there that's simple, easy, safe, and cheap that my patient can do to prevent this problem? Actually, there are a number of things. But one stands out. And one of the good things about it is that it can be easily measured and optimized.
The authors of a recent study note that previous population studies have shown that diets high in omega-3 oils and fish have been “consistently associated with a decreased risk for age-related macular degeneration.” So to further investigate the matter, they examined the blood levels of 963 residents of Bordeaux, France. All of them were 73 years or older. Before the study, each of the men and women had their omega-3 blood levels checked. Then for the next 31 months on average, the researchers checked the patients' eyes for signs of ARMD. Here's what they found.
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The chance of developing any signs of ARMD was related to how high their blood levels of omega-3 oils were. The higher the levels, the lower the chances. Those who had the highest levels were 38% less likely to show any signs of ARMD. The authors pointed out that these results correspond almost exactly to the many previous population studies that show the same thing. Those with the highest intake of omega-3 oils also have a 38% less chance of getting ARMD. When study results are this consistent, they're extremely likely to be accurate. So what does this mean for my patient?
I checked her omega-3 index. If you will recall from the December 2015 issue of Second Opinion, you can go to www.omegaquant.com and do the $79 home test. This will give you your omega-3 index. The omega-3 index is the best way to determine your omega-3 oil status.
My patient was taking one of those supposedly better-than-fish-oil products taken from marine sources other than fish. I was not surprised when the results came back showing that she had a very depressed omega-3 index despite the supplements. That's because marine oils other than fish oil just don't have enough EPA and DHA to get the job done. So far I haven't tested any supplement other than a good high-quality fish oil that consistently results in an optimum omega-3 index. And this low test result may very well explain why her eyes are now showing drusen.
So take advantage of this fantastic test and see if you need a quality fish oil supplement. Not everybody does, but most people do. If your omega-3 index is less than 8%, you're someone who needs to take more fish oil. The brand that I started my patient on is Complete Daily Oils. A good starting dose is three capsules a day. I will recheck her levels in three months to make sure she is up to her goal. And when she is, she will have reduced her chances of getting ARMD by a solid 38%.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Merle BM, Delyfer MN, et al. High concentrations of plasma n3 fatty acids are associated with decreased risk for late age-related macular degeneration. J Nutr. 2013 Apr;143(4):505-11.
Chong EW, Kreis AJ, et al. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid and fish intake in the primary prevention of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Ophthalmol.2008;126:826–33.