Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be partially prevented by dietary habits privileging the consumption of ω3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω3s) while lowering linoleic acid (LA) intake.

The present study aimed to document whether following these epidemiological guidelines would enrich the neurosensory retina and RPE with ω3s and modulate gene expression in the neurosensory retina.

Rat progenitors and pups were fed with diets containing low or high LA, and low or high ω3s. After scotopic single flash and 8-Hz-Flicker electroretinography, rat pups were euthanized at adulthood. The fatty acid profile of the neurosensory retina, RPE, liver, adipose tissue and plasma was analyzed using gas chromatography. Gene expression was analyzed with real-time PCR in the neurosensory retina.

Diets rich in ω3s efficiently improved the incorporation of ω3s into the organs and tissues. This raising effect was magnified by lowering LA intake. Compared to a diet with high LA and low ω3s, low LA diets significantly upregulated LDL-receptor gene expression. Similar but not significant upregulation of CD36, ABCA1, ALOX5 and ALOX12 gene expression was observed in rats fed with low LA.

No effect was observed on retinal function. Increasing the intake in ω3s and lowering LA improved the enrichment with ω3s of the tissues, including the neurosensory retina and RPE, and upregulated genes involved in lipid trafficking in the neurosensory retina.

Those results consistently reinforced the beneficial role of ω3s in the prevention of AMD, especially when the diet contained low levels of LA, as suggested from epidemiological data.