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5 Fish Oil Benefits for Eye and Vision Health

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Fish oil has many advantages, both for developing vision and maintaining healthy eyes at any age. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil provide nutrition that can even reduce the risk of eye diseases such as macular degeneration.

This essential nutrient is found in seafood, but you can also take fish oil supplements to gain the vision-improving benefits.

Why is fish oil important?

From reducing blood pressure to promoting vision and brain development, fish oil has benefits for people of all ages. Fish oil is relatively easy to consume, whether it is through a diet rich in seafood like salmon and tuna or by taking dietary supplements.

The main types of fatty acids found in fish and dietary supplements of fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — both of which have been found to benefit overall health — especially eye health. 

The retina, specifically, contains high levels of DHA, further enhancing the benefits of fish oil for your eyes. 

How does fish oil benefit vision?

Fish oil benefits vision for both children and adults. Its properties enrich the functions of the eye that produce tears and keep them moisturized, and research has shown that fish oil can also help prevent macular degeneration from developing — but these are just two advantages among many.

If you are not getting enough fish oil in your diet: Capsule, liquid and gummy supplements can help you achieve the valuable perks for your eye health. Dietary supplements are also available for children, though you should speak with your child’s pediatrician before beginning use.

Five ways fish oil benefits vision

1. Supports vision development

Infants and children need a certain amount of omega-3 fatty acids to support their developing vision and health. Babies receive a large amount of this through breast milk, and most baby formulas are enriched with DHA as well.

Studies have shown that omega-3s can even improve visual acuity when infants receive proper supplementation both when the mother is pregnant and after birth.

Because vision continues to develop throughout childhood, it is important for children to consume a healthy amount of fish oil and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. In addition to eye health, fish oil promotes brain development in children and can even improve symptoms in those who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Talk with your pediatrician before starting your child on fish oil supplements in order to understand the appropriate dosage and each of the benefits your child may be able to experience.

SEE RELATED: Questions to ask your child’s eye doctor

2. Helps soothe dry eyes

Many people experience dry eyes, whether due to allergies, environmental factors, hormonal changes or even digital eye strain.

A common remedy for dry eyes is the use of lubricating eye drops (artificial tears), but research has shown that simply consuming omega-3 fatty acids can improve symptoms of dry eye syndrome and reduce the need for artificial tears. 

One study involving 32,000 women even found that those who consumed fatty acids by eating fish regularly lowered their risk of dry eye syndrome by as much as 17%, compared to those who did not eat seafood or only ate small amounts.

How is this so? A healthy amount of fish oil can help reduce inflammation in the eyelids, which is a factor that often makes dry eyes worse or more uncomfortable. Fish oil consumption can also soothe dry eyes by improving and regulating the function of the meibomian glands (which produce oil that helps prevent tears from drying out). 

SEE RELATED: Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD): The cause of your dry eyes?

3. May help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration

Proper intake of EPA and DHA found in fish oil may help delay the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and slow the progression of existing cases, according to medical studies. 

One particular study conducted by the AREDS Research Group involved 1,837 participants who showed early signs of AMD. Over a span of 12 years, the study found that those who consumed high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids were 30% less likely to have AMD progression than participants who had a lower intake of the fatty acids.

Fish oil supplements alone are not a substitute for treating AMD. If you have a family history of AMD or are otherwise at risk of developing the condition, speak with an ophthalmologist about the right care for your eyes.

4. Lowers the risk of glaucoma

Fish oil promotes proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, which can reduce the risk of high eye pressure (IOP), a condition that can lead to glaucoma and even vision loss when it is left untreated. 

Clinical trials have found that oral supplements of omega-3s can reduce the level of IOP significantly when taken on a regular basis. One trial found that reducing your risk can happen in as little as three months.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s advice when caring for your eyes. Though the omega-3s found in fish oil can help lower your eye pressure, your IOP should still be monitored to ensure no complications arise.

5. Promotes healthy adult vision

In addition to vision development and disease-preventive factors, consuming fish oil supports healthy overall vision. Even if you don’t experience particularly dry eyes, taking a fish oil supplement or eating a diet rich in oily fish can help keep your eyes moisturized and functioning properly.

Inflammation can be reduced in your eyelids and the surface of your eyes when you consume fish oil, which can aid in healthy vision and help prevent various vision problems from occurring.

Fish oil promotes more than just vision health, too. Other benefits include reducing blood pressure, increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and even reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

SEE RELATED: Best supplements and nutrition for eye health

Fish oil supplements

Fish oil can be consumed by eating fish as a regular part of your diet or by taking oral supplements. The best fish oil supplement may depend on your personal preference, health needs and dietary restrictions.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week in order to reap the full benefits for your health (and your vision). Fatty fish is particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids and can provide the nutrients you need. Consider incorporating the following into your diet:

  • Salmon

  • Albacore tuna

  • Sardines

  • Mackerel

  • Lake trout

  • Herring

Some prefer to get their omega-3s through fish oil pills. Fish oil supplements are available in capsules, gummies and liquids at most pharmacies — just be sure to follow the recommended dosage on the bottle (or as recommended by your doctor).

Choosing a fish oil supplement can be somewhat challenging due to the number of options that are available. How do you choose the right fish oil supplement for you? Some things to consider when it comes to making your decision include:

  • The dosage – A 1-gram dose is a good bet, but check with your doctor if you have concerns.

  • Specialty seals on the product indicate quality. Some to look out for include ConsumerLab.com, NSF International and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). You may also see a seal from the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) on certain products – this means their safety and quality are guaranteed by Nutrasource, a contract research organization.

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fatty acids – each provide different and important benefits for your health.

A few products that fit the above standards include Nature Made Fish Oil Gummies and Barlean’s Ideal Omega-3 Softgels. 

Some kid-friendly options for fish oil capsules and gummies are also available (namely Barlean’s and Nordic Naturals brand supplements), but you may want to discuss introducing these into your child’s diet with your pediatrician first.

In addition to dietary vision supplements like fish oil pills, regular comprehensive eye exams are vital to caring for your eye health. See an eye doctor on an annual basis to make sure your vision is healthy, clear and functioning well.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Fact sheet for consumers. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. March 2021.

n–3 fatty acid supplementation in mothers, preterm infants, and term infants and childhood psychomotor and visual development: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 148, Issue 3, Pages 409-418. March 2018. 

Visual-acuity development in healthy preterm infants: effect of marine-oil supplementation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Accessed April 2021.

Mayo Clinic Q and A: Omega-3 supplements for children - what does the research show? Mayo Clinic. August 2019.

The benefits of fish oil for dry eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology. October 2020. 

Mayo Clinic Q and A: Fish oil supplements and dry eyes. Mayo Clinic. November 2017.

Relation between dietary n−3 and n−6 fatty acids and clinically diagnosed dry eye syndrome in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 82, Issue 4, Pages 887-893. October 2005.

Meibomian gland dysfunction and treatment. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Accessed April 2021.

Circulating omega-3 Fatty acids and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. March 2014.

ω–3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and 12-y incidence of neovascular age-related macular degeneration and central geographic atrophy: AREDS report 30, a prospective cohort study from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 2009. 

Oral omega-3 supplementation lowers intraocular pressure in normotensive adults. Translational Vision Science & Technology. May 2018.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods & benefits. Cleveland Clinic. Accessed April 2021.

Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. American Heart Association. Accessed April 2021.

Should you be taking an omega-3 supplement? Harvard Health. April 2019.

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