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Originally published Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 7:02 PM

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Dietary changes can slow retinitis pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa causes night blindness by adolescence and eventually tunnel vision and total blindness by about age 60.

Los Angeles Times

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Retinitis pigmentosa is one of several eye conditions that appears to benefit from nutritional substances. In a study published Monday, researchers found that people with the condition experienced a slowing of the disease process if they took vitamin A supplements and ate a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Retinitis pigmentosa causes night blindness by adolescence and eventually tunnel vision and total blindness by about age 60. Vitamin A has been a standard therapy for the condition since 1993 when studies showed it slowed disease progression.

But adding omega-3s to the mix may be even better. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary looked at data from studies on visual acuity involving 357 patients. The analysis showed those who had a diet high in omega-3s — which are found in oily fish — had a slower annual rate of decline in acuity. Someone adopting this dietary recommendation by age 35 could have 18 years of additional vision, with most people retaining their visual acuity and central vision field for most of their lives, the authors said.

The study is published online in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

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