Glaucoma, often referred to as the “silent thief of vision,” is a condition that typically manifests without noticeable symptoms such as pain or blurred vision until it has progressed significantly. It stands as the second leading cause of blindness globally. Currently, the primary approach to treating glaucoma involves reducing intraocular pressure to an acceptable level to minimize damage to the optic nerve and prevent blindness. Optometrists and ophthalmologists employ a combination of oral and topical medications, as well as various surgical interventions, with some procedures being minimally invasive while others are more invasive. Many integrative primary eye care providers advocate for minimizing the use of surgery and medication whenever possible. It would be beneficial to have evidence-based nutrients that can support optic nerve health and potentially slow down the progression of glaucoma.
Over the past decade, an increasing amount of data has emerged on natural and nutritional therapies that have the potential to lower intraocular pressure and provide neuroprotection to the optic nerve, nerve fiber layer, and ganglion cell layer. Some of the latest nutritional ingredients that have gained attention in supporting glaucoma include Mirtogenol (a combination of pine bark extract and bilberry), Cognizine (a patented form of citicoline), omega-3 fish oil, saffron, Neumentix (a spearmint extract), and various forms of niacinamide (NMN, NR, and NAM).
This article will specifically focus on the role of omega-3 in the context of glaucoma. Omega-3 is possibly one of the most extensively studied nutrients, with numerous publications highlighting its positive health benefits across various areas. Studies have consistently validated the positive effects of omega-3 on heart health, brain function, joint health, eye health, skin, hair, muscles, and more. Omega-3 is recognized as one of the best nutrients for promoting overall eye health. Nutritionally-informed doctors often recommend omega-3 for conditions such as dry eye, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and various other inflammatory eye conditions. Now, it appears that glaucoma, as a serious eye condition, may also benefit from the correct dosage and form of omega-3 supplementation.
Recent studies indicate that a daily intake of 1500 mg (combined EPA and DHA) of omega-3 fish oil can significantly reduce intraocular pressure over a three-month period in young individuals without glaucoma. These studies observed an 8% decrease in intraocular pressure after the three months of omega-3 fish oil supplementation. Another study conducted on rats showed a 23% reduction in intraocular pressure while the subjects were on an omega-3 regimen. The precise mechanism of action through which omega-3 affects glaucoma is not yet fully understood. However, there are several theories on how omega-3 can lower eye pressure and potentially provide neuroprotection to the optic nerve.
A correlation has been observed between glaucoma patients and lower levels of omega-3 in their bloodstream. In a recent study, it was discovered that individuals who consumed higher amounts of omega-3 in their daily diet had a decreased likelihood of being diagnosed with glaucoma.
According to a study, patients with glaucoma experienced improved visual fields following three months of omega-3 supplementation.
Recent research published in June 2023 has revealed a link between elevated levels of diglycerides and triglycerides in the bloodstream and an increased risk of glaucoma. Understanding this adverse association between specific lipid abnormalities and glaucoma is crucial when devising an integrative treatment plan for patients with glaucoma. One effective approach to lowering these lipids is through the appropriate use of omega-3 fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels. However, the question that remains unanswered is whether reducing these lipids naturally through omega-3 fish oil or medically through medication can actually decrease the risk of glaucoma. While this concept seems logical, further studies are required to establish this theory definitively. Nevertheless, there is substantial evidence supporting the consideration of omega-3 as a beneficial nutrient for individuals suspected of having or diagnosed with glaucoma. Omega-3 fish oil is generally safe when taken at recommended doses and is readily available at minimal cost.
Not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal in terms of their quality and effectiveness. The majority of over-the-counter omega-3 supplements available are in the form of ethyl esters. This form involves the attachment of ethanol to the omega-3 backbone, requiring it to be metabolized by the liver daily to remove the ethanol and convert it into a triglyceride form that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Ethyl ester omega-3 supplements are known to be unstable, poorly absorbed, and prone to becoming rancid quickly.
A superior form of omega-3 that has been extensively studied is the rTG or TG (re-esterified triglyceride) form. This form of omega-3 already has a triglyceride backbone, enabling it to be absorbed more efficiently without the need to pass through the liver. Unlike ethyl esters, the rTG form of omega-3 does not have a fishy taste or odor and is absorbed 3-4 times faster. The highest quality omega-3 fish oil products are sourced from Norway. In the field of eye care, one of the most highly recommended rTG form omega-3 fish oils is Fortifeye Super Omega and Fortifeye Super Omega 3 Max, as recognized by many doctors.
When searching for a high-quality omega-3 fish oil supplement, it is essential to ensure that it is in the rTG or TG form and originates from Norway. Additionally, it is recommended to look for products that provide between 1600 and 2400 mg of omega-3 per two-gel cap servings. Eye doctors, including optometric physicians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists, should strongly consider recommending omega-3 supplements to patients dealing with dry eye, macular degeneration, diabetes, and now glaucoma.