The study claims that the world’s leading cause of blindness could be cured with a new fish oil pill
- Researchers have developed a new type of omega-3 fatty acid that is able to reach the retina
- Supplementing increased DHA in the retinas of mice, which reduced vision damage
- Omega-3s, commonly found in fish oils, benefit cognition, vision, and joint stiffness
A study has found that a fish oil supplement may be the key to treating one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
Researchers have created a new form of omega-3 fatty acid that is able to cross into the retina of the eye to prevent vision loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and other diseases.
In a study in rats, the supplement was first able to be absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream and then cross from the bloodstream into the retina. This prevents age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Mice fed the new type of supplement showed an improvement of nearly 100 percent after six months in the amount of the important omega-3 known as DHA in their retinas.
The lab version of the omega-3 known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was able to be absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream and then cross from the bloodstream into the retina, unlike the type that makes up popular fish oil supplements today. market.
The omega-3s the team developed could be packaged into a dietary supplement much like those found on drugstore shelves, potentially helping the more than 20 million Americans with vision problems such as aging and diabetes.
Scientists have been studying for years whether dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids can slow vision loss, primarily AMD, which is a common cause of severe vision loss in the elderly.
There are currently no cures for AMD, and doctors would be disqualified from providing elderly patients with eyeglasses or other vision aids.
The substance found in fish and krill oil supplements usually comes in a form called triacylglycerol (TAG) DHA that cannot pass from the bloodstream into the retina.
‘The LPC-DHA diet is significantly superior to TAG-DHA in retinal DHA enrichment and could be beneficial for several patients’ retinopathies,’ said Professor Sugasini Dhavamani at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Medicine and lead author of the report. “
This approach provides a novel therapeutic approach to prevent or mitigate retinal impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.
Studies of this specific omega-3 in humans have not yet begun. But the promising early results indicate that more than 23 million people — the total number of Americans with either diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration — could benefit from a newly formulated dietary supplement.
People with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those with diabetes, a group of rare eye diseases called retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, and peroxisomal disorders that affect metabolism, often have abnormally low levels of retinal DHA, which leads to visual impairments
While omega-3s come in supplement form, they are also found naturally in many foods including salmon and other fish, leafy greens, whole wheat bread, and nuts.
The researchers tested their LPC-DHA supplement in mice that had been bred to show processes similar to those found in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
After six months, mice fed LPC-DHA daily showed a 96 percent improvement in DHA content in their retinas as well as preservation of retinal structure and function.
Meanwhile, TAG-DHA supplementation had no effect on retinal DHA levels or function.
In healthy eyes, DHA is concentrated in the retina, where it helps maintain photoreceptors, the cells that convert light into signals that are sent to the brain. Healthy levels of DHA in the retina protect against damage from bright light exposure and oxidative stress.
Recent research has also shown that people with a higher level of DHA in their blood have a higher protection against Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Professor Dhavamani said: “Increasing retinal DHA at clinically feasible doses has not been possible until now due to the specificity of the blood-retinal barrier which conflicts with the specificity of the intestinal barrier.
“This study uses a novel approach of dietary LPC-DHA that overcomes enteric and blood-retinal barriers and improves retinal function.”
Their LPC-DHA dose was equivalent to about 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day in humans, about the same range recommended by the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.
The researchers, who will present their findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, said more studies will be needed to confirm that LPC-DHA is safe and effective for use in humans.