Dry eye syndrome is characterized by a decline in the quality or quantity of tears that normally bathe the eye to keep it moist and functioning well. The condition causes symptoms such as pain, irritation, dryness, and/or a sandy or gritty sensation. If untreated, severe dry eye syndrome can eventually lead to scarring or ulceration of the cornea, and loss of vision. Victims can experience symptoms so constant and severe that reading, driving, working and participating in other vision-related activities of daily life are difficult or impossible.
According to study lead author Biljana Miljanovic, MD, of the Divisions of Preventive Medicine and Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Dry eye syndrome impacts quality of life, productivity and safety for millions of people. Unfortunately, there is little advice clinicians can offer about its prevention. Our study set out to examine how changing dietary habits in America, primarily a shift in the balance of essential fatty acids we are consuming, may be associated with onset of this eye disease. We found that a high intake of omega 3 fatty acids, often referred to as a ‘good’ fat, commonly found in fish and walnuts, is associated with a protective effect. Conversely, a higher ratio of omega 6, a fat found in many cooking and salad oils and animal meats, compared to omega 3 in the diet, may increase the risk of dry eye syndrome.”
Researchers found that tuna consumption reduced the risk of dry eye syndrome. Women who reported eating at least five servings of tuna per week had a 68 percent reduced risk of dry eye syndrome compared to women who consumed one serving per week. Other fish types that have lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids did not appear to protect against dry eye syndrome.