Most doctors these days will tell you that eating oily fish can prevent you from going blind in later years.
They’re on the right track, but as usual they’ve ended up with the wrong conclusion.
It is true that the omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish, like tuna, salmon and sardines, lower the risk of what we call macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in old age.
The macula is an area at the back of the eye and is responsible for what we see in the center of our vision.
With age, the macula can deteriorate, causing the central vision to be blurry and it can progresses to complete blindness.
Actually, I’ve been recommending omega-3s to my patients for years to keep their hearts, brains and eyes healthy – with great success.
And lately I’ve been recommending omega-3s to patients with a new, man-made eye disorder that is becoming more and more common – “digital eyestrain.”
Some doctors call it “computer vision syndrome” and you develop it by overusing your smartphone, computer or tablet.
The symptoms include:
- Dry, itching and burning eyes;
- Blurry vision;
- Double vision;
- Neck pain.
If you go to your eye doctor, you will probably be told to change the way you use your device.
You may even get a prescription for eye drops.
This will help for a while. But it does not get to the most important underlying cause of the condition – a shortage of omega-3 fatty acids.
Digital eyestrain has become an epidemic among people of all ages. A recent poll by the non-profit Vision Council tracked the symptoms and confirmed that it affected more 60% of people across three generations.
When my patients complain of digital eyestrain, I remind them to get enough omega-3s into their diet. And numerous studies back me up.1,2,3,4,5
Though, some simple tricks can help ease digital eyestrain, too.
You should view digital screens from at least 16 inches away. To do this, you may need to enlarge the type on your screen.
And you should also follow the 20-20-20 Rule. To do this, look away from your screen every 20 minutes and focus on something over 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
You need to do this, because the light from digital devices causes us to blink less. And the less we blink, the drier our eyes become.
But your eyes still need omega-3s to protect them.
The most important omega-3s for your eyes are called EPA and DHA. Your retinas must have enough DHA to function properly. That’s because it’s a major component of the cells that react to light.
In a 2012 study, researchers gave DHA supplements to a group of people aged between 45 and 77 years old. It significantly improved the overall vision of one test group in just 90 days.6
A more enlightened physician might even tell you to eat a tuna sandwich.
The problem here is that too often, fish oil ends up tainted by pollutants such as mercury, lead and various carcinogens.
I urge my patients to take supplements that use a combination of squid oil and krill oil.
Squid spend most of their lives wriggling through the darkest depths of the ocean where even submarines cannot go. So the octopus-like creatures rarely come in contact with the pollution caught in surface currents.
The tiny shrimp-like krill live at the bottom of the food chain. And they don’t have a long life expectancy. So they’re usually harvested by commercial fishing boats before they can absorb many toxins.
If you really want to protect and preserve your vision, then take omega-3s from krill and squid every day.
I recommend that you take supplements containing at least 500 mg. of DHA and 60 mg. of EPA.
The supplements should also contain astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. And you should take the capsules with meals so you can properly digest the EPA and DHA.
To your good health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Bhargava, R. et al. “Oral omega-3 fatty acids treatment in computer vision syndrome related dry eye.” Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2015 Feb 16. pii: S1367-0484(15)00009-0. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2015.01.007. [Epub ahead of print.]
2. Kangari, H., et al. “Short-term consumption of oral omega-3 and dry eye syndrome.” Ophthalmology. 2013 Nov;120(11):2191-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.04.006. Epub 2013 May 1.
3. Bhargava, R., et al. “A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome.” Int J Ophthalmol. 2013 Dec 18;6(6):811-6. doi: 10.3980/j.issn.2222-3959.2013.06.13. eCollection 2013.
4. Liu, A, et al. “Omega-3 essential fatty acids therapy for dry eye syndrome: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies.” Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 1583–1589.
Published online 2014 Sep 6. doi: 10.12659/MSM.891364.
5. Akinbinu, T.R., and Mashalia, Y.J. “Impact of computer technology on health: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).” Medical Practice and Review. November 2014. Vol. 5 (3). P20-23.
6. “The effects of 90-day supplementation with the omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on cognitive function and visual acuity in a healthy aging population.” Neurobiology of Aging. April 2012. Vol. 33, Issue 4. P824.e1-824.e3.