Dry eye disease affects roughly 14 percent of American adults. Older women are especially susceptible to this chronic and hard-to-treat condition.

Fish Oil Put to the Test for Dry Eye Disease:

Many health professionals recommend dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids to patients with dry eye disease. That’s because fish oil (the prime source of omega-3 fatty acids) has anti-inflammatory activity. The hope has been that these oral supplements would ease dry eye symptoms. Until now, however, there have not been well-controlled clinical trials to test this hypothesis.

In The New England Journal of Medicine this week, researchers report on the DREAM trial (New England Journal of Medicine, April 13, 2018). DREAM stands for DRy Eye Assessment and Management.

The researchers recruited over 500 patients with moderate to severe dry eye disease and assigned them randomly to receive either an olive oil placebo or 3,000 mg of fish oil. Participants were tested for dry eyes at six and 12 months.

Fish Oil Was No Better Than Placebo:

The results were disappointing. The authors report:

“Among patients with dry eye disease, those who were randomly assigned to receive supplements containing 3000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for 12 months did not have significantly better outcomes than those who were assigned to receive placebo.”

It is possible, of course, that the scientists chose a placebo with some anti-inflammatory properties. While olive oil has not been recommended for dry eye disease, it has been show to reduce inflammation (Schwingshackl, Christoph & Hoffmann, Nutrients, Sep. 11, 2015). For the time being, however, it seems that we can’t count on fish oil to help dry eye symptoms.

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