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New form of omega-3 may help prevent visual decline due to Alzheimer’s

ome of the leading causes of sight loss affect the part of the eye called the retina.
Supplementation with a certain type of omega fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, can reduce the incidence of retinal disease, however, improving DHA levels in the retina is challenging due to the retina-blood barrier.
A group of researchers has now shown that a different form of DHA they have developed can enter the retinal tissue— at least in mice.
If the same effect is shown in humans, the supplement could be used to reduce risk and potentially even treat some retinal diseases.
Loss of sight is believed to have a global cost of $411 billion annually due to medical and care costs, as well as lost work and productivity, according to the World Health OrganizationTrusted Source.

Most people who lose their sight are over the age of 50, and globally the leading causes of vision impairment are:

age-related macular degeneration
cataract
diabetic retinopathy
glaucoma
uncorrected refractive errors.
Age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy both affect the retina, which is found at the back of the eye and contains many light-sensitive cells which allow us to see.

Age-related macular degeneration affects the macula—a part of the retina—and results in central vision being blurred. Meanwhile, diabetic retinopathy is seen in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and is caused by high blood sugar levels affecting blood flow to the retina, and if untreated, can cause blindness.

Of all the tissues in the body, the retina and brain have the highest concentration of a certain type of omega-3 fatty acid known as docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This fatty acid has to be provided through diet or supplementation as the body can only make small amounts of it.

While the importance of omega-3 fatty acidsTrusted Source in the diet are well known, and epidemiological studies have shown the beneficial effects of DHA supplementation on reducing the risk of development of retinal disease, actually getting this molecule into the retina in order to support normal functioning is much harder.

This is because it is challenging to get DHA in the form used for supplements, that cross the intestinal barrier, to also penetrate the blood-retinal barrierTrusted Source.

Now, new research offers a ray of hope to treat and possibly prevent visual declines related to Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other disorders after scientists created a new form of DHA that can cross into the eye’s retina.

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