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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Lower Risk For Diabetic Retinopathy

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In middle-aged and older people with type 2 diabetes, consuming at least 500 mg per day of dietary long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, readily attainable with two weekly servings of oily fish, was associated with a lower risk for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy, according to a recent journal article published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, coupled with an increased lifespan, has resulted in a consistent increased risk of disability in older people with diabetes. A foremost obstacle for this group is diabetic retinopathy (DR), a main cause of blindness. Given the monetary and societal burden of DR, establishing effective systems to avoid or at least prolong its onset is a predominant concern. The retina is rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Experiments support dietary LC-PUFA defense towards DR, but clinical knowledge are lacking.

The main author of this study, Aleix Sala-Vila, D.Pharm., Ph.D., of the Lipid Clinic, Barcelona and colleagues performed a prospective study inside the randomized scientific trial Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED). In this study, they tested Mediterranean diets supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts versus a control food regimen for essential cardiovascular prevention.

The trial was conducted in major health care facilities in Spain. From 2003 to 2009, 3,614 contributors aged 55 to 80 years with an earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes had been recruited. Full knowledge has been available for 3,482 participants (48% men; average age 67 years). Meeting the dietary LC-omega-3-3PUFA suggestion of at the least 500 mg per day for essential cardiovascular prevention was assessed by a validated food-frequency questionnaire.

Of the individuals, a total of 2,611 (75%) met the goal LC-omega-3PUFA recommendation. For the duration of the median follow-up of 6 years, incident DR was identified in 69 of the study subjects. After adjusting for age, sex, intervention group, and lifestyle and clinical variables, individuals meeting the LC-omega3PUFA suggestion at baseline (500 mg/d or better) when compared with those no longer fulfilling this recommendation (lower than 500 mg/d) showed a 48% relatively lowered risk of incident sight-threatening DR.

The authors wrote Our findings, which are consistent with the current model of the pathogenesis of DR and data from experimental models, add to the notion of fish-derived LC?3PUFA as a healthy fat.

The PREDIMED study provides thoughts for individuals who desire to fight the issues of diabetes by means of clever eating, writes Michael Larsen, M.D., D.M.Sc., of Rigshospitalet-Glostrup and University of Copenhagen, Glostrup, Denmark, in an accompanying commentary. It seems a safe bet now to spread one’s food intake to include the gifts of our oceans and forests, while we consider how they can be protected for future generations and wait for large and ambitious studies of the effects of diet on diabetic retinopathy. The success of such studies in age-related macular degeneration shows that solid scientific information is worth waiting and working for.

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