We’ve been hearing for some time that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish – especially cold water fatty fish such as salmon – can promote heart health when eaten as a regular part of a healthy diet. Now researchers have found that a specific omega-3 known as DHA can prevent age-related vision loss as well.

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta discovered that that lab animals fed DHA did not accumulate a certain specific toxic molecule at the back of the eyes. The toxin normally builds up in the retina with age and causes vision loss.

The discovery could result in a therapeutic use of DHA to prevent vision loss in older people, according to the team, which published the results of their study in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

"In normal aging, this toxin increases twofold as we age. But in lab tests, there was no increase in this toxin whatsoever,” said Yves Sauve, one of the researchers. “This has never been demonstrated before -- that supplementing the diet with DHA could make this kind of difference."

Inspired by their success, the researchers recently began another study, recruiting humans who have age-related macular degeneration, a condition that results in loss of central vision and is the main cause of blindness in people over 50. Examining the DNA markers in the blood of study participants, they will attempt to determine whether participants with certain genetic markers will respond better to varying levels of DHA in their diet.

If you want to add DHA and other healthy omega-3's to your diet, the best source is cold-water fatty fish including salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. These days, certain foods are fortified with additional omega-3s – eggs (Eggland’s Best) and butter substitute spreads (Smart Balance). You can find organic versions of these in your health food store.

For vegetarians, among the best omega-3 sources are flaxseeds and walnuts. To best preserve the omega-3 goodness, buy fresh, whole flaxseeds and store them in your fridge. As you need them, grind them in a coffee grinder or food processor. Get into the habit of adding a teaspoon or two to salads, smoothies, soups and other recipes.

What’s your favorite food source of omega-3?

Science Daily: Fatty Acid Found in Fish Prevents Age-related Vision Loss
US News: 8 Easy Ways to Load Up on Healthy Omega3 Fats