Skip to main content
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids Reduce the Risk of Diabetic Retinopathy

    By Lynda Seminara and edited by Neil M. Bressler, MD

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, October 2016

    Download PDF

    Experimental studies indicate that consumption of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCω3PU­FAs) protects against diabetic retinopa­thy (DR). Sala-Vila et al. examined this association in humans by conducting a long-term prospective study of 3,482 patients with type 2 diabetes (mean age, 67 years; 48% men) enrolled in the PREDIMED trial. They found that con­sumption of LCω3PUFAs (≥500 mg/d) significantly reduced the risk of DR.

    Nutrient intake was determined with a validated food frequency ques­tionnaire, administered annually. After collection of baseline data, patients were randomized to receive a Mediter­ranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil (n = 1,236) or nuts (n = 1,095) or a control diet with recommendations to reduce fat intake (n = 1,151). The primary outcome measure was DR requiring intervention. Data were adjusted for potential con­founders and validated with sensitivity analyses.

    Participants were monitored for a median of 6 years, and 69 new DR events were recorded. At baseline, 75% of participants met the target for LCω3PUFA consumption (≥500 mg/d). The relative risk of incident sight-threatening DR for these partic­ipants was 46% lower than for those who consumed less LCω3PUFA (p = .001), regardless of the assigned diet. Risk reduction was even greater for patients with hypertension or advanced diabetes. Participants who consumed at least 2 servings of oily fish per week at baseline also had a lower risk of DR.

    Because the PREDIMED trial was not designed to examine DR, and the participants generally had a plant-based Mediterranean diet, these findings need to be validated in other populations, the authors noted. Nevertheless, they recommend that middle-aged and older patients with type 2 diabetes consume at least 500 mg/d of dietary LCω3PUFA (e.g., from oily fish) to decrease their risk of sight-threatening DR.

    The original article can be found here.