Life Extension Update
Friday, February 17, 2012. An article published online on February 13, 2012 in the American Medical Association journal Archives of Ophthalmology describes the discovery of Harvard researchers of a benefit for omega-3 fatty acids in combination with vitamin A for individuals with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that begins with night blindness in adolescence and progresses to side vision loss, tunnel vision and eventual blindness in some men and women. The condition is estimated to affect approximately two million people worldwide.
For the current study, Eliot L. Berson, MD, of Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and his associates analyzed data from 357 adults with retinitis pigmentosa who participated in one of three randomized clinical trials that were conducted from 1984 to 1991, 1996 to 2001 and 2003 to 2008. All subjects were receiving 15,000 international units vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate for four to six years. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment and at yearly follow-up visits were analyzed for the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Among those whose intake of omega-3 fatty acids was classified as high at least 200 milligrams per day, a 40 percent reduction in the average yearly rate of decline of distance visual acuity was observed in comparison with those who consumed lower levels. A similar reduction was observed for retinal acuity.
"Since vitamin A plus an omega-3–rich diet slowed the rate of decline of distance and retinal acuity by about the same extent, we conclude that the benefit of this combination was due to an effect on preserving central retinal function," the authors write.
"The treatment regimen of vitamin A combined with an omega-3-rich diet should make it possible for many patients with typical retinitis pigmentosa to retain both visual acuity and central visual field for most of their lives," they conclude.
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