The findings of a recent study 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 reduced the odds of stroke or cancer in the study, whose participants did not know whether they were taking the actual supplements or a dummy pill. Researchers found that healthy people and people who had heart problems benefited when they took omega-3 fatty acids.
Looking to the future, VITAL plans to conduct further studies to assess the risk and benefits of fish oil with vitamin D and omega-3 in preventing other diseases, including diabetes, blood pressure, memory loss and depression. She recommends that people talk to their doctor before starting to take a fish oil supplement. "In terms of omega 3, the best thing to do is try to have more fish dietary," said Manson. An update is being discussed by relevant health organizations.
In the second experiment, "VITAL", the researchers used 26,000 people, who each day took a gram of the drug containing eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. Participants had no history of heart problems. Blacks who took fish oil were 77% less likely to have a heart attack.
"The good news is that both fish oil and vitamin D were safe – there was no harm – but there was also no benefit," Dr. Nissen said. They were able to reduce the risk of all cardiovascular events by 19%.
Currently, 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 this can be confirmed in a follow-up study, then it may point to a very promising approach to reducing a health disparity," said Manson. Most of the previous research has focused on volunteers at high risk for heart attack, stroke and / or cancer. Vitamin D had no effect on heart disease, but it did influence the decrease in cancer mortality. "This is a very important and impressive judgment."
Have you ever had a heart attack or stroke?
In the REDUCE-IT study, another team of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital tested the benefits of a pure and stable form of omega-3 fatty acid known as EPA.
One study tested 4 grams per day of Amarin Corp's Vascepa, which is concentrated EPA, in more than 8,000 patients with elevated triglycerides and an increased risk of heart problems, for several reasons.
"It's disappointing, but there have always been expectations so high that vitamin D can do all these different things," said Dr. Clifford J. Rosen of the Research Institute of Maine Medical Center in Scarborough who co-authored a editorial on the studies in the New England Journal of Medicine.
People interested in taking fish oil supplements should first discuss it with their doctor, said Helene Glassberg, an associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Penn University's Penn Medicine.
But she does not see her study as totally negative. It is a purified variant of a component of fish oil, which is intended for 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 per week."