The findings of a recent study have put an end to the myths surrounding the healing power of Vitamin D and fish oil supplements for cancer.
Neither vitamin D nor fish oil lowered the odds of stroke or of getting cancer in the first place in the trial, whose participants did not know whether they were taking the real supplements or a dummy pill. The researchers found that both healthy people and people who had heart problems benefited when they took omega 3 fatty acids.
Looking forward, VITAL plans to conduct more studies to assess the risk and benefits of Vitamin D and Omega-3 fish oil in the prevention of other diseases including diabetes, blood pressure, memory loss, and depression. She recommends that people talk to their health care provider before they start taking a fish oil supplement. "In terms of the omega 3s, the best thing to do is to try to have more dietary fish", Manson said. An update is now being discussed by the relevant health organisations.
In the second experiment, "VITAL", the researchers used 26 thousand people, who every day took one gram of the drug containing eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid. Participants had no history of heart problems. Blacks who took fish oil were 77 percent less likely to have a heart attack.
"The good news is that both the fish oil and the vitamin D were safe - there was no harm - but there was also no benefit", said Dr. Nissen. They were able to reduce their risk of all cardiovascular events by 19 percent.
At present, statin therapy is recommended for patients who have had a heart attack, while a review of cholesterol levels after three months and an adjustment of statin therapy after this period is also recommended.
"If that can be confirmed in a follow-up study, then it could point to a very promising approach to reducing a health disparity", Manson said. Most previous research has focused on volunteers with an elevated risk of heart attack, stroke and/or cancer. Vitamin D had no effect on heart disease, but influenced the decrease in mortality from cancer. "This is a very important and impressive trial".
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In the REDUCE-IT trial, another research team at Brigham and Women's Hospital tested the benefits of a pure and stable form of the omega-3 fatty acid known as EPA.
One study tested 4 grams a day of Amarin Corp.'s prescription Vascepa, which is concentrated EPA, in more than 8,000 patients with high triglycerides and a greater risk of heart problems for various reasons.
"It's disappointing, but there have always been such high expectations that vitamin D can do all these different things", said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough, who was a co-author of an editorial on the studies in The New England Journal of Medicine.
People interested in taking fish oil supplements should discuss it with their doctor first, said Dr. Helene Glassberg, an associate professor of clinical cardiovascular medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Medicine.
But she doesn't see her study as entirely negative. It is a purified variant of a component of fish oil, which is aimed at triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood.
"We need to increase the number of fish in the diet, to have at least two servings a week".