EDMONTON — There is nothing fishy about Dr. Yves Sauve's latest eye-opening discovery.
The University of Alberta ophthalmology and physiology researcher has found DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, can reduce and prevent age-related vision loss that occurs due to the natural accumulation of toxic substances in the eyes, known as lipofuscin.
"We don't have any studies other than what we've found with DHA that can prevent that accumulation," Sauve said.
Sauve and his team are doing trials in human patients with macular degeneration, a condition that results in the loss of central vision and is the main cause of blindness in people over 50. The trials have found those who have the highest level of DHA will have the lowest severity and slowest progression of macular degeneration.
"In 2020, we are expecting that one in five Albertans will be seniors," he said.
"So we're preparing for that demographic tidal wave."
Sauve suggested everyone should increase their DHA levels by eating oily fish like salmon, or taking fish oil capsules with every meal. Because fish do not make the DHA but actually obtain it through micro-algae, vegetarian alternatives are also available in capsules that can be found in health food stores.
Sauve said a primary reason North Americans lack Omega-3 fatty acids is that the western diet is exceptionally high in processed foods that contain large byproducts of soy and corn, which are both high in omega-6 fatty acids.
A healthy diet should contain a one-to-one ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3, Sauve said, but blood tests often find patients have a ratio as high as 15 to 1. He said Omega-3 fatty acids have proven beneficial to human health in many areas.
"We're telling people that fish oils are actually a very good thing, and not only for vision loss. This compliments other studies on cardiovascular health and also mental health in terms of severe depression," he said. "Even in children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be tackled with the intake of DHA in some patients."
Sauve's studies were recently published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science.
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