Omega-3s have well-established heart-health benefits—they help improve circulation, regulate blood pressure, support vascular function, and offer other cardioprotective actions (just to name a few).* One might even say these healthy fats are heart famous!
Perhaps you've also heard of all the amazing things these fatty acids do to promote cognitive function and working memory throughout the lifespan—but many don't realize omega-3s bolster more than just the brain when it comes to the central nervous system.*
That's right, omega-3s have a massive role to play in our eyes, their visual acuity, retinal and macular health, and overall functioning.* Here's how.
Omega-3s are critical for infants' visual development
Let's start at the beginning of the lifespan, shall we? It turns out omega-3s are vital to the normal development of infants' central nervous systems (including eyes and vision) both before and after birth.*
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is especially prevalent in the central nervous system. In fact, it's the most abundant fat in both the brain and the retina (making up 97% and 93% of total omega-3 content1, respectively) and has several key roles in both cognitive and visual function.*
DHA accumulation in the brain begins in utero during the second half of gestation and remains crucial for neurodevelopment through the first couple of years of life.* This, of course, assumes the omega-3 fat DHA is available in utero from the mother's nutritional inputs.
Infants cannot synthesize meaningful quantities of omega-3 fats from omega-6 fatty acids. Both types of fats are therefore critical to receive from breast milk or a fortified infant formula. These healthy fat inputs are vital, as normal and optimal infant vision and brain development rely on sufficient DHA levels.*
In a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition, omega-3 supplementation was shown to improve visual acuity in both preterm and term infants2, indicating omega-3 supplements (especially those with servings of DHA) can be a powerful and effective way to support vision development during several stages of infancy.*
Evidence shows that omega-3s are an important nutrient for development in not only fetal and infant development but throughout childhood as well.*
DHA supports retinal health and optimal visual acuity.
While DHA and other omega-3s are vital for normal development early on in life, their importance doesn't end there. It turns out DHA is essential for optimal visual transduction3 (i.e., light converting to electrical signals so the brain can interpret what the eyes are seeing) and functioning throughout all stages of life.*
The highest concentration of DHA in the body is found in the retina; indeed, DHA is a major structural lipid4 that makes up the outer segment membranes of the retinal photoreceptor cells.* Thanks to DHA, the fluid nature of the lipid membrane allows faster response to stimulation and supports optimal visual sensation (i.e., the perceptual experience of seeing).* In the most basic terms, DHA literally helps us see clearly!*
In addition to retinal function, DHA also has neuroprotective actions that support overall retinal health5.* As a physiologically essential nutrient for both the brain and retina, DHA is an important omega-3 to get enough of to promote optimal eye health through all stages of life.*
The bottom line.
Omega-3s—particularly DHA—are crucial for supporting the development of our eyes, visual acuity, and retinal health.*
Considering most Americans should be eating three to six times more EPA and DHA6 than they currently are to reach the baseline intake of 250 to 500 milligrams per day, an omega-3 supplement is an effective, stress-free way to support your vision.*
With 1,500 milligrams of EPA plus DHA in each serving (from sustainably sourced and omega-3-rich wild-caught anchovies), mbg's omega-3 potency+ can help you support your eye health today, tomorrow, and throughout your life.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.