How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Protect From Retinopathy?

February 14, 2011

New research has uncovered a potential mechanism for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for retinopathy.  In a nutshell, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA breaks down to 4-hydroxy-docosahexaenoic acid (4-HDHA), which directly inhibits cell proliferation and angiogenesis in the retinas of mice, providing protection from development of retinopathy.  This effect was dependent on the presence of the 5- lipoxgenase (5-LOX), whose function is to break down DHA to 4-HDHA.

The researchers also found that HDHA can be high in healthy humans and also in stressed individuals who are at risk for retinopathy, such as premature babies and diabetics.  This suggests that the mechanism may bear out in humans.  Clinical trials studying levels of omega-3 and the incidence of retinopathy in infants are underway.

If results are positive, it could pave the way for a cost effective therapy: omega-3 supplementation costs approximately $10 per month, while a current retinopathy treatment method, anti-VEGF therapy can cost $4000 per month.

The authors also note that the research suggests that omega-3 should not be used together with lipoxygenase inhibitors such as zileuton.

For the abstract of the research, click here.

Risa Schulman, PhD
Expert, Healthy Food and Dietary Supplement Science, Marketing and Regulatory




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