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Fish Provide Significant Protection against Macular Degeneration

Results of a prospective follow-up study of participants in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study show that eating fish more than four times each week offers significant protection against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD, a currently untreatable disease that causes fuzziness, shadows or other distortions in the center of vision, is the leading cause of severe visual loss in persons aged 55 and older in both the United States and Europe. More than 150,000 Americans are legally blind due to AMD, with 20,000 new cases occurring annually. Incidence increases with each decade over age 50, reaching more than 30% by age 75.

Practical Tips

Here are a few quick serving ideas from the World's Healthiest Foods to help you protect your eyes by enjoying fish more often:

To learn more about the many other benefits offered by fish, truly some of the World's Healthiest Foods, click cod, halibut, or salmon.

For some exceptional recipes featuring these fish, click on the Recipe Assistant, select a fish from the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all the World's Healthiest Foods' recipes containing the fish chosen will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

This Harvard School of Public Health study correlated data collected beginning in 1984 on 42,743 women, plus data collected beginning in 1986 on 29,746 men. Investigators questioned study participants about their diets and calculated the types of fat and total fat they ate.

Those who ate the most fat overall, particularly saturated fats from animals and linoleic acid, an omega-6 fat found in high amounts in polyunsaturated vegetable oils, such as corn and safflower oil, increased their risk of AMD, while those who ate fish, especially fish high in a specific omega-3 fish fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), reduced their risk of developing the eye disease. DHA is concentrated in the retina of the eye and helps protect and promote healthy retinal function. Consuming more than four servings of fish each week, especially those fish highest in DHA such as salmon and tuna, was associated with a 35% lower risk of AMD.

Reference: Cho E, Hung S, Willett WC, Spiegelman D, Rimm EB, Seddon JM, Colditz GA, Hankinson SE. Prospective study of dietary fat and the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Feb;73(2):209-18.