What Fish Oil Supplements May Provide to Retina Disease Management

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An ARVO 2022 study author discusses her team's research into omega-3 fatty acids for diseases including dry AMD.

Fish oil supplements may provide an alternative, consistent benefit to patients with chronic retina disease.

New international data presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2022 Meeting this weekend showed omega-3 fatty acid supplements provided patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or Stargardt disease significant improvement in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), as well as subjective patient perspectives of wellbeing, at 24 weeks.

The findings, presented by study author Katerina Prokopiou, PhD, research associate at Ophthalmos Research and Educational Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus and assistant professor in pharmacology at the University of Nicosia Medical School, contributed to growing interest in the clinical utility of omega-3 fatty acids against chronic disease. And to Prokopiou’s experience, they generated a great deal of interest in more robust follow-up research from her peers at the meeting.

In an interview with HCPLive during ARVO 2022, Prokopiou discussed her team’s research and her genesis of interest in fish oil supplements for ophthalmic care.

“They are well known for their cardiovascular protective effects, they also show they have neuro-protective effects in neurodegenerative conditions,” Prokopiou said. “But also in eye conditions, there’s a lot of research going on.”

While it’s been previously established that fish-heavy Mediterranean diets are linked to decreased risk of retina disease progression among affected patients, past research into certain fish oil supplements has stalled. Prokopiou stressed the importance of her team’s research using fatty acids including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

“If we administer higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids—specifically an omega-3 formulation which is rich in EPA, then we should see protective effects,” she explained. Her team previously found success in animal model studies observing for inflammatory biomarker and protein level improvements with the supplement.

And now, with promising clinical data from a small patient population, Prokopiou—and many of her colleagues—are interested to see what additional assessment brings.

“We believe this is a very simplistic way of supplementing the patients with retinal conditions,” she said. “It’s quite safe, it’s well tolerated, it’s something that can actually affect both eyes, and you don’t need intravitreal injections.”