Omega-3s found to reverse Alzheimer’s-related visual decline

Published on
April 25, 2023
Sugasini Dhavamani, a research assistant professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Medicine.

A new form of omega-3 fatty acid could help reverse visual decline caused by age-related macular degeneration.

The condition, which affects one in 10 Americans over 50 years old, and especially those with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, has been found to be treatable in mice in a study using a new type of omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that can cross into the retinas from the bloodstream. The study found mice bred to exhibit processes similar to those found in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease treated with the human equivalent of 250 to 500 milligrams of LPC-DHA daily for six months showed a 96 percent improvement in retinal DHA content, and preserved retinal structure and function that was likely the result of the presence of DHA in their retinas, according to a press release from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The study, led by Sugasini Dhavamani, a research assistant professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Medicine, found LPC-DHA supplements might help prevent many types of vision impairment. According to Dhavamani, DHA helps to maintain photoreceptors in human eyes, with a lack of DHA associated with vision loss. People with Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, retinitis pigmentosa, peroxisomal disorders, or age-related macular degeneration are frequently found to have low levels of DHA in their retinas.

But prior to the creation of LPC-DHA, it was difficult to get DHA to pass from the digestive system into the retinas, Dhavamani said. Other DHA supplements have not been proven to have any impact on either maintaining or improving vision in those with impairments.

“Increasing the retinal DHA at clinically feasible doses has not been possible until now because of the specificity of the blood-retinal barrier that is incompatible with the specificity of the intestinal barrier,” she said. “This study uses the novel approach of dietary LPC-DHA that overcomes both intestinal and blood-retinal barriers and improves retinal function.”

Omega-3s, frequently found in significant concentrations in many types of seafood, were also shown in a recent study to potentially improve kidney health

And a study published in October 2022 by the scientific journal Neurology found humans that consume significant amounts of omega-3s have better cognitive skills and brain function by midlife than those who do not. 

Photo courtesy of University of Illinois at Chicago

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