You may have heard of fish as brain food, but eye food?
Omega-3 oils in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel help cells in the eyes to withstand stress, according to new research published in the November online issue of the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology.
In laboratory tests, researchers from Louisiana State University exposed human eye cells to constant light and found that they could stand up better to the stress when supplemented with omega-3 oils.
Lead author Professor Nicolas Bazan and his team found that the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, which is abundant in oily fish, preconditions different types of retinal cells to withstand stress, such as their blood supply being cut off.
Preconditioning occurs when the blood supply to an organ is interrupted for briefly, then reestablished. The protective response from the interruption would carry over to a subsequent blood supply shortage, much like the immunity a vaccine confers.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. It converts light into signals, which are sent to the brain, where they are interpreted to provide vision.
Retinal damage leads to the degeneration of the macula, crucial for frontal vision and therefore, critical for reading, writing and viewing colour.
Prof Bazan said that the discovery could lead to new treatments for degenerative diseases of the retina.