Omega-3s may fight diabetic retinopathy

One of the most common complications of type 2 diabetes is retinopathy. This condition has robbed more than 4 million diabetics of their eyesight and is expected to become even more common as the number of people with diabetes is expected to grow. However, a new study from researchers at Children's Hospital of Boston has shown that omega-3 fatty acids may be a useful tool in the fight against retinopathy.

The loss of sight in retinopathy is generally caused by an overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina. These vessels are often poorly formed and leak blood, resulting in blindness.

However, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine that omega-3s appear to put the brakes on this process of unchecked blood vessel growth. They showed in tests on mice that a diet rich in these healthy fats can slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina and promote healthy vascular generation.

Given the fact that dietary supplements containing omega-3s are so inexpensive, particularly compared to treatments for retinopathy, the researchers said that their findings could have major implications for therapies aimed at preventing the condition.

"The cost of omega-3 supplementation is about $10 a month, versus up to $4,000 a month for anti-VEGF therapy," said Lois Smith, who led the investigation. "Our new findings give us new information on how omega-3s work that makes them an even more promising option."

Additionally, the team found that aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs do not interfere with the function of omega-3s, as has been suggested may be the case by earlier studies. This is important, as many individuals with type 2 diabetes take these medications to control their heart disease risk.
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