Eating oily fish on a regular basis can dramatically reduce the risk of developing AMD (age related macular degeneration) according to two separate research studies, one conducted by Sydney University, Australia, and one by Harvard Medical School in the USA.
The Australian study, published in the Archives of Ophthalmology Volume 124, spanned a period of 5 years and involved over 2000 people over the age of 49 who were asked to complete a food frequency questionnaire. It was found that those who had eaten at least one portion of oily fish once a week reduced their chances of developing AMD by 40% but those who ate 3 or more portions of oily fish a week were able to reduce their risk by a massive 70%.
Similar results were found by researchers at Harvard Medical School who revealed that eating two portions of oily a fish a week reduced the risk of developing AMD by 45%. The results of both these studies would suggest that the higher the amount of fatty fish eaten weekly, the greater the protection against AMD.
What is AMD?
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in older people today affecting over 30 million people across the world. There are two types, one is standard macular degeneration and the other is age related macular degeneration or AMD. AMD is the more common type. It is basically a devastating condition where over a period of time, the light sensing cells in the macula start to deteriorate and eventually stop working, resulting in blindness.
Researchers believe that if there are not enough fatty acids in the diet, it can affect cell renewal in the retina. Worryingly, fish consumption in the UK and the USA has dwindled significantly over the past few decades, particularly the consumption of oily fish, which contain the essential Omega 3 fatty acids that may offer protection against AMD. Other risk factors for AMD include obesity, smoking and genetic influences.
What’s so good about oily fish?
Oily fish such as Salmon, Tuna, Anchovies, Herring, Mackerel and Trout contain significant amounts of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two long chain polyunsaturated Omega 3 fatty acids are the ones that have been identified in study after study as being necessary for good physical and mental health in general.
They are anti-inflammatory, anti-coagulant, and essential for healthy brain development and function, and for healthy vision, they also boost the immune system too. Consequently, a lack of these fatty acids in the diet can result in an increased risk of developing a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, many types of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and a variety of skin problems, and the list goes on. And now, the results of these latest studies would suggest that a lack of Omega 3 in the diet can increase the risk of AMD too.
Government health authorities are trying to encourage people to eat more fish as the evidence is so compelling in favour of Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly in relation to fighting heart disease, one of the biggest killers of our time. However, at the same time they also advise us to restrict our consumption of oily fish due to the potentially harmful effects of mercury and other toxins that are now polluting our sea and of course our fish.
This can present the consumer with a dilemma as it means that although the research indicates that eating more fish can offer protection against heart disease and many other health problems, including AMD, it might not be wise to eat too much of it because mercury is known to be harmful to health. Thankfully, there is a solution.
Fish oil supplements
Fish oil is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids and has rapidly gained recognition in recent years as being the one supplement that can offer the most preventative and therapeutic benefits for both physical and mental health for absolutely everyone, however, a word of caution. It is advisable to opt only for pharmaceutical grade fish oil as in this type of fish oil the toxins have been removed. Unfortunately, most of the standard grade fish oils on the supermarket shelves can still contain impurities. It’s also important to choose a fish oil with a powerful anti-oxidant, like vitamin E, to keep the oil fresh.
A major advantage of Pharmaceutical grade fish oil is that it can be concentrated to contain much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, so not only do you gain maximum benefit from the fish oil, you only have to take one or two capsules a day instead of as many as 5 or 6 capsules of lower grade fish oils. Pharmaceutical grade fish oil is therefore not only safer to take than lower grade fish oils; it is much better value for money and offers you the greatest protection against ill-health.