Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Essential fatty acids and eye health

Omega-3: DHA and EPA

Fat is not always bad. Dietary fat is an important energy source and we could not live without fat.

Fatty acids are a component of fat molecules. There are two families of essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. They support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.

They also promote visual development and proper functioning of a critically important part of the eye known as the retina. The omega-3 fatty acids that are known to be important for proper visual development and retinal function are Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Omega-3 is not just good for eyes, so if you take omega-3 supplements, you get a huge added benefit. Omega-3 is critical to the overall functioning of the human body. We need omega-3 fatty acids to keep our cell membranes healthy so that cells can get proper nutrition and get rid of waste. Omega-3 is also important in the production of prostaglandins, which regulate things like heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and the immune system. They also are needed for proper nervous system development and they help our sensory system develop.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found in the highest concentration in the retina. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is used by the body to create DHA . According to the American Optometric Association:

Studies in infants have suggested that a dietary supply of omega-3 fatty acids may be essential for optimal visual development. A number of studies have shown that, in animals, dietary deprivation of DHA results in visual impairment and retinal degradation. Dry eye syndrome also has been linked to omega-3 deficiency. Additionally, low levels of DHA and EPA have also been associated with eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and retinopathy of prematurity.
The American Optometric Association has created this list of foods rich in DHA and EPA:

Discover great recipes rich in Omega 3

Sources of EPA and DHA

EPA and DHA are concentrated in fatty fish and marine mammals. For vegetarians and others who do not eat fish, vegetarian DHA is available - it is manufactured from microalgae.

It is possible that increasing the intake of EPA nd DHA can reduce the risk of heart and eye diseases. You can increase your EPA and DHA intake by eating more fatty fish such as those listed above or by taking high quality (scientifically proven) omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the form of oil or capsules.