Nutrition for the Eyes (Final Part)

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Resident Consultant Ophthalmologist, Hospital Fatimah Ipoh
Dr S.S. Gill

EYE HEALTH

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us more about NUTRITION & VITAMINS for the eyes.

Good nutrition with vitamins and minerals are important for the eyes to function normally. It helps our body to grow, repair the wear and tear, protect against infections and to function properly. In this final part on the importance of nutrition and vitamins to the eyes, Dr Gill speaks to us about omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids DHA & EPA

Several studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration (degeneration of the sensitive nerve part at the back of the eye). DHA attains its highest concentration within eye tissue, where it accounts for approximately 30% of the total fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are among the most important nutrients for the development, function, and maintenance of eye tissue throughout life.

Role in Preventing Macular Degeneration

There was a big European study published in 2008, which showed that those who ate fish, (which is a food source of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids) at least once a week had a decreased risk of developing wet (neovascular) macular degeneration, compared with those who ate fish less than once a week.

In another study in 2009 called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), it was found that those who consumed the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30 per cent less likely to develop macular degeneration.

Role in Dry Eyes

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce dry eye syndrome, a chronic eye disease caused by a decrease in tear production or increase in tear evaporation. In a study of more than 32,000 women between the ages of 45 and 84, it was found that those who consumed omega-3 fatty acids in their diet benefited from less dry eye problems.

What are the Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids DHA & EPA?

Eye healthOmega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA can be found in foods like oil-rich fish, fish oil, nuts, plus fortified foods like eggs, bread and fruit juices. The variety of fish included sardines, salmon and tuna. It is not surprising though that the seawater varieties were found to be better sources than the farmed variety of fish partly because these were typically subject to higher levels of pollutants.

If you don’t like eating fish, another way to ensure enough omega-3 intake is to take fish oil supplements. These are available in capsule and liquid forms. There are some varieties that have even taken off the fishy taste and smell from the fish oil supplements.

Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables. The only downside is that our bodies cannot process the omega-3 fatty acids from these vegetarian sources as easily as the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish.

Key points to remember:

  • Eat a good, balanced diet with lots of fish, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Discuss improving your diet or taking vitamin supplements with your GP.
  • Avoid smoking. A healthy lifestyle makes all the difference!

For more information, call Gill Eye Specialist Centre at Hospital Fatimah (05-545 5582) or email: gilleyecentre@dr.com.