Fish Consumption vs Macular Degeneration

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Alvin B. Lin, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Lin is an associate professor of family and community medicine at University of Nevada School of Medicine and an adjunct professor of family medicine and geriatrics at Touro University Nevada College of Medicine. He also serves as an advisory medical director for Infinity Hospice Care and as medical director of Lions HealthFirst Foundation. Dr. Lin maintains a small private practice in Las Vegas, NV. The posts represent the views of Dr. Lin, and in no way are to be construed as representative of the above listed organizations. Dr. Lin blogs about current medical literature and news at


Original date of publication: March 2011

Don't ask me why, but a heart attack doesn't scare me. However, the thought of having a stroke gives me the willies.  Luckily, eating more non-fried fatty fish can lower our stroke risk, as can a host of other lifestyle modifications.  It turns out that going blind is another condition that sends shivers down my spine since I'm so dependent upon my eyesight (aren't we all?). The good news is that the Archives of Ophthalmology released a study this week demonstrating an association between more fish (oil) consumption and lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in women.

The authors followed 38,022 women in the Women's Healthy Initiative study for 10 years after completion of a detailed food-frequency questionnaire. All participants were free of ARMD at baseline. Those in the highest tertile of docosahexanoic acid (DHA) consumption (230mg/d) had a 38% lower risk of developing ARMD compared to those in the lowest tertile. For eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), those in the highest tertile of consumption (100mg/d) had a 34% lower risk compared to those in the lower tertile of consumption.

In real world terms, for those of us who don't like (can't) read the small print on the side of bottles of Fish Oil supplement, eating at least 1 serving of fish a week was associated with 42% lower risk of ARMD compared to those who ate less than a serving of fish a month.

I know that some are concerned about the possibility of heavy metal & mercury poisoning from fish (oil), but given all the benefit vs the extremely low theoretical risk, I'll eat my fish (and take my fish oil). And visit my sister-in-law, the optometrist, every year.