Update on ALA & Eyesight

A study came out earlier this year (thanks, Tom!) shedding some light on the issue of the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and eye damage. Previous research from the Nurse’s Health Study had linked ALA intake to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. My suspicion is that this was due to confounding, but until more is known, I have been discouraging vegans from taking large amounts of ALA.

This new study from France (1) measured ALA levels in the blood, rather than from the diet, and found that higher blood levels of ALA were associated with a reduced risk of late-AMD.

This gives me quite a bit of confidence that the association of ALA with AMD in the Nurse’s Health Study was probably due to confounding. However, we are not out of the woods on yet on AMD and definitely not on cataracts. I hope we know more soon.

You can read more details in the section Eyesight of the VeganHealth.org article, Omega-3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians.

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1. Merle BM, Delyfer MN, Korobelnik JF, Rougier MB, Malet F, Féart C, Le Goff M, Peuchant E, Letenneur L, Dartigues JF, Colin J, Barberger-Gateau P, Delcourt C. High concentrations of plasma n3 fatty acids are associated with decreased risk for late age-related macular degeneration. J Nutr. 2013 Apr;143(4):505-11. | link

4 Responses to “Update on ALA & Eyesight”

  1. rainbow Says:

    This is totally unrelated to this post, but I’ll put it here anyway. I just read your link to the blog about failing health and veganism. It could have been my story. These are my comments to that blog:


    P.S. Please consider writing a book about your experience with this. The vegan community sorely needs a book of this nature. Perhaps you can partner with Jack Norris, RD? I found your blog through his blog! Again, thank you.
    I cannot thank you enough for this blog post. I cried as I read it. I felt sick on low fat/fat free/low protein vegan diets, and so much better on high fat, high protein vegan diets. But the experts told me I was wrong. God bless you for this post. Please put it in printable format so that we can print it out and show it to all the naysayers.
    Those were my comments. I’m sure I speak for others as well. Please give us a book on this! The combination of her experience and journey back to wellness and your expertise would be a winner. Please consider it. Thank you.

  2. Andrea Says:

    I developed temporary macular degeneration when I started adding linseed oil to my food and bad acne when I started adding high omega 6 oils to my food.

    My guess is the oxidized omega fatty acids in the oils since I can eat high amounts of walnuts and hazelnuts without any health problems.

  3. Ari Says:

    you don know that vegans have 40% reduced risk of developing cataracts right? and the ones that consume kale on a daily basis has 69% reduced risk of glaucoma. (source: nutritionfacts.org)

    this people on this studies of ALA are consuming meat, eggs, milk and other bad stuff, so that’s why they are on a greater risk of developing cataracts…i seriously doubt that a vegan consuming flax seeds everyday will be somehow damaing his eyesight, cause it’s already protected by the vegan diet, and kale!! (love kale)

    i love your website, but i really would love even more if you talked about the GOOD STUFF of the vegan diet too…sometimes is depressing, cause there is a lot of studies about it….i know you are a realist, but this studies are real, and vegasn should know about it!

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I talk about cataracts here: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/dxrates#cat

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