BACKGROUND: omega-3 (n-3) Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) affect processes implicated in vascular and neural retinal pathogenesis and thus may influence the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether omega-3 LCPUFA intake was associated with a reduced likelihood of developing central geographic atrophy (CGA) and neovascular (NV) AMD.

DESIGN: We undertook a nested cohort study within a multicenter phase 3 clinical trial, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), to study progression to advanced AMD in 1837 persons at moderate-to-high risk of this condition. The AREDS was designed to assess the clinical course, prognosis, risk factors, and nutrient-based treatments of AMD and ran from November 1992 to December 2005. We obtained baseline data on omega-3 LCPUFA intake with a validated food-frequency questionnaire. Trained fundus graders ascertained AMD status from annual stereoscopic color photographs by using standardized methods at a single reading center across a 12-y period. We applied multivariable repeated-measures logistic regression with the incorporation of generalized estimating equation methods, because this permitted determination of progression to outcome at each visit.

RESULTS: Participants who reported the highest omega-3 LCPUFA intake (median: 0.11% of total energy intake) were 30% less likely than their peers to develop CGA and NV AMD. The respective odds ratios were 0.65 (95% CI: 0.45, 0.92; P
CONCLUSIONS: The 12-y incidence of CGA and NV AMD in participants at moderate-to-high-risk of these outcomes was lowest for those reporting the highest consumption of omega-3 LCPUFAs. If these results are generalizable, they may guide the development of low-cost and easily implemented preventive interventions for progression to advanced AMD.

Keywords: age-related macular degeneration, blindness, eyesight - omega-3 fatty acids, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids