In the report, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers looked at over 3,500 people in Spain with type 2 diabetes who were participating in a trial looking at the effects of keeping a Mediterranean diet. The people were followed for about six years.
The researchers found that the individuals who reported consuming at least 500 mg a day of a type of omega-3 fatty acids, which was the equivalent of eating two servings of oily fish a week, had a significant lower risk of diabetic retinopathy, which is a complication that can cause vision problems and even blindness.
The researchers didn’t look at why the omega 3s may have prevented the diabetes complication, but argue the anti-inflammatory effects of the unsaturated fats may be at play. Other research has suggested that the inflammation damping effects of omega 3s could aid heart health. Some researchers suggest the effects of omega 3s for some conditions may be overhyped. You can read more about the benefits and the debate here.
The new study is limited in the fact that the people in the study lived in Spain, where the Mediterranean diet is followed by many people and the diet has lots of documented health benefits due to being high in vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. Still, as Dr. Michael Larsen of the University of Copenhagen wrote in a corresponding editorial to the study, “[The study] provides food for thought for those who wish to fight the complications of diabetes by clever eating.”
He concludes, “It seems a safe bet now to spread one’s food intake to include the gifts of our oceans and forests, while we consider how they can be protected for future generations and wait for large and ambitious studies of the effects of diet on diabetic retinopathy.”