How fats affect your eyes

July 10, 2015

While some fats are good for your eyes; others can be disastrous. The "bad" fats — saturated and trans fats — that clog arteries and are linked with heart attacks — are also the fats that are bad for your eyes.

How fats affect your eyes

How to start monitoring your fats

  • Limit your intake by cutting down on red meats and high-fat dairy products such as whole milk, high-fat cheeses and butter.
  • Do your utmost to cut down on processed foods, too — cakes, cookies, chips, meat pies, take-out, junk and fast foods.
  • They contain unhealthy trans fats and usually high levels of processed vegetable fats, known as omega-6 fatty acids, which when taken in excess, are known to increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

How essential?

Omega fatty acids are also known as essential fatty acids (EFA's) because they're vital for many bodily functions including brain, nerve and eye functions. Our bodies can't make them: we have to get them from foods.


  • One type, the omega-3's, are especially good for eyes, helping to reduce inflammation and make the tear film oilier, reducing drying out and alleviating gritty, dry eyes.
  • Research has shown that low omega-3 consumption raises the risk of dry eye syndrome.
  • To boost eye health, eat two or three portions of oily fish a week, such as sardines (fresh or canned), herring and shrimp.
  • Omega-3's are also found in green leafy vegetables, walnuts and some vegetable oils, including flaxseed, rapeseed and soya.
  • You'll do your body a favour, too; these fats are important for the health of your heart, blood vessels and brain.


  • Our bodies also need some omega-6 fatty acids. These occur in corn oil and many other vegetable oils.
  • But, while we don't eat enough omega-3's, we consume far too many omega-6's in processed and fried foods, which isn't good for eye health.
  • The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is about 1:1 — roughly what our Stone Age ancestors would have consumed.
  • However, in a typical modern diet the ratio is closer to 1:12 (omega-3:omega-6). And if you eat a lot of processed foods, the ratio could be as high as 1:20.

What about fish?

  • We all know that fish is good for us — especially oily fish — but we're warned not to eat too much because of the risk of mercury contamination.
  • And some of the fish that contain high concentrations of beneficial omega-3's are also the ones with the highest mercury levels.
  • As a result, Health Canada advises people to avoid eating more than one portion of swordfish, shark or marlin a week, and two portions of canned light tuna, salmon or shrimp.
  • So while it's best to get your nutrients from food rather than supplements, this is one occasion where you might want to top up your omega-3's with a fish oil supplement (purified to remove mercury).
  • Aim for 1000 milligrams (less than a quarter of a teaspoon) of fish oil a day.
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