Data from a cohort of the PREDIMED study* was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)[1] and found in over 3400 diabetic patients, aged 55 years and older, and who consumed 500mg/day of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to two servings of fatty fish per week), significantly reduced their risk for diabetic retinopathy (DR) than those who consumed less.  The analysis was conducted from complete datasets of 3482 people diagnosed with T2D at baseline. Their food intake was assessed annually for 6 years with a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ); the main outcome was DR needing treatment with laser photocoagulation, vitrectomy, and/or antiangiogenic therapy.

Results showed:

  • During a 6 year follow up of 3482 patients, 48% of whom were men,  there were 69 new events of DR reported
  • After adjusting for age, sex, lifestyle and clinical variables, participants whose intake of omega-3 fatty acids was ≥500 mg/day had a 48% reduced risk of DR (HR 0.52; 95% CI, 0.31-0.88; P = .001)

Why is this clinically significant?

  • DR is the most common diabetic eye disease, usually occurring in both eyes and results from changes to the blood vessels of the retina and may lead to irreversible vision loss
  • In early stages of diabetes or pre-diabetes, patients often don’t notice vision changes but with progression of this chronic inflammatory disease, there is an increased risk for DR
  • Older adults with T2D, or pre-diabetes, are most at risk for DR and may be able to reduce that risk by consuming 2 servings per week of oily, omega-3 rich, fish per week

*PREDIMED is a landmark, multi-center study of over 7,000 patients in Spain and evaluates the efficacy of a Mediterranean diet in the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

[1] Sala-Vila A, Diaz-Lopez A, Valls-Pedret C et. al JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016 Aug 18

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