Background: Studies in preterm and term human infants have suggested that a dietary supply of omega-3 fatty acids is essential for optimal visual development. Several basic science studies support the hypothesis that omega-3 fatty acids may be useful therapeutic agents for pathologies of the retina and lens. As part of a systematic review of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on eye health, the purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic review of the scientific-medical literature to appraise and synthesize the evidence for the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing the development or progression of retinitis pigmentosa.
Methods: A comprehensive search was undertaken in MEDLINE, PREMEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Global Health, and Dissertation Abstracts. Unpublished literature was sought through manual searches of reference lists of included studies and key review articles and from the files of content experts. Searches were not restricted by language of publication, publication type, or study design. Eligibility criteria were applied to screen eligible studies on two levels. Data extraction and quality assessment were performed.
Results: Six studies published between 1995 and 2004 met eligibility criteria in investigating the question of the possible value of omega-3 fatty acids in slowing the progression of retinitis pigmentosa. Meta-analysis was not performed because there was not enough available information for formal quantitative analysis.
Interpretation: There are trends in improvement of some retinitis pigmentosa outcomes with omega-3 fatty acids in the higher quality studies. Clinical research is preliminary in this field, however. Accordingly, definitive answers will require significantly more observational and interventional clinical research.