Omega-3s are a nutrient powerhouse, and two kinds, in particular, are vitally important for eye health: DHA and EPA. The concentration of DHA in the retina is dramatically higher than in any other tissue. In fact about 60 percent of the lipids in the retina are DHA. They make your cell membranes more fluid, which helps brain, eye, and nerve cells function better. Yet most Americans only get 100 mg a day of DHA/EPA, far short of the recommended 250 mg.
Research done as far back as the mid 1990s showed that people with higher levels of DHA in their blood had a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Subsequent research showed that people who consume higher amounts of EPA and DHA have about a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing AMD.
There are three main ways you can get DHA/EPA in your diet: by eating foods with naturally occurring DHA/EPA, by eating foods fortified with DHA/EPA or by taking a supplement. Here’s how much you get from various food sources:
- Fish: Wild cold-water fishmake DHA/EPA from the algae they eat, and it’s coupled with fat, which aids its absorption and effectiveness. Per 4-oz. serving you get 2,085 mg from salmon, 1,110 mg from sardines, and 305 mg from light tuna.
- Flax seeds: One ounce of flax seeds packs in 6,388 mg of Omega 3 (nearly 6 times the RDA). You get 1,655 mg of Omega-6 in the process, which helps keep your Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratios in check. To get an even bigger boost, you can take a tablespoon of flax oil which delivers 7,196 mg of Omega-3. Great news for vegans!
All sorts of foods have been adding Omega-3s lately, from orange juice to bread.
- Eggs:Chickens turn some of the Omega-3s from flaxseed in their feed into DHA/EPA. One large egg can contain 30 to 150 mg Omega-3s (some of which is DHA/EPA).
- Milk:Some brands of milk add fish oil or algal oil to give a DHA/EPA boost (don’t worry, you can’t taste it!). One cup of fortified milk delivers 30 to 50 mg of DHA/EPA.
- Peanut butter:Like milk, some brands are adding fish oil. A 2-tablespoon serving provides 32 mg DHA/EPA.
If you’re not getting enough Omega-3s in your diet, you can opt for a supplement, like fish oil pills. There is no shortage of Omega-3 supplements out there, but they vary greatly in quality and effectiveness. Look for supplements with high amounts of DHA/EPA and at least 500 to 1,000 mg of fish oil. Avoid mercury, PCBs, and filler ingredients.
At Takle Eye Group, we appreciate the opportunity to support you in maintaining your eye health through a healthy lifestyle and regular exams. Call us to schedule yours!