Share on PinterestFish oil pills and vitamin D supplements can help your health, according to a new study. Getty Images
- A new study found that fish oil supplements can help reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event like a heart attack.
- Vitamin D supplements did not appear to reduce the risk of heart attacks, but they did reduce the risk of developing cancer.
- The authors say that consuming fish instead of a supplement can be just as effective.
According to a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer and heart disease are the two leading causes of death in middle-aged adults.
However, a study called the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Study (VITAL) found that both vitamin D and fish oil can play important roles in reducing mortality from these diseases.
The results will be presented this week at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in Chicago.
VITAL is an ongoing research study of approximately 26,000 American men and women. It is investigating whether daily intake of supplements containing vitamin D-3 (2,000 IU) or omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people with no history of these conditions.
“It has long been believed that fish oils are beneficial in preventing CVD. This is based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in certain fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as nuts that contain unsaturated fatty acids, especially omega-3 fatty acids, ”said Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist at Texas Health Fort Worth and Texas Health Physicians Group unaffiliated with this study.
The researchers found that participants who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oil) had a significantly reduced risk of having a heart attack. The results also show that the greatest benefit was in people who ate less than 1.5 servings of fish per week.
“I think we are finally getting to some conclusions about vitamin D and omega-3 supplements, but I want to say that this is not a“ one size fits all ”solution. People need to understand that some people are more likely to benefit from it than others, and if they are low on fish, they are more likely to benefit from the omega-3s in fish oil, ”said Dr. JoAnn Manson, director of the VITAL study, professor of health at Harvard Medical School, and chief physician of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said Healthline.
While vitamin D supplements did not reduce key CVD events or the incidence of cancer, it was associated with a significant reduction in overall cancer mortality in people in the study for at least 2 years.
“No vitamins can prevent heart disease from developing, so it is important to reduce other risk factors such as cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes,” said Dr. Brandie Williams, cardiologist at Texas Health Stephenville and Texas Health Physicians Group.
But for those who took a vitamin D supplement and developed cancer, the death rate from cancer was 25 percent lower, according to the results of the study. The researchers confirmed this reduced cancer death effect through recent meta-analyzes of previous vitamin D studies.
Manson said that while vitamin D was linked to a 25 percent reduction in cancer mortality, that benefit was only seen in those of average body weight and not in those who were overweight or obese.
“For vitamin D supplementation, we recommend doing more research on this cancer death reduction in order to better understand it. We believe that longer term follow-up to the VITAL trial will be critical, ”said Manson.
She warned that she is not recommending any change in guidelines for vitamin D at this point, but there are no clear safety concerns with a moderate intake of around 2,000 IU per day.
“Those who are already taking vitamin D supplements can continue to do so as long as they are not taking megadoses. These doses are well above what is currently considered safe – up to 4,000 IU per day.”
She stressed that more research is needed to find out exactly which population will get the most benefit from supplementation.
“This pattern suggests a complex balance between benefits and risks for each intervention, and indicates the need for additional research to determine who is most likely to benefit from these supplements,” said Manson. “What we are saying about take away at this point is that fish oil is not a population-wide recommendation to take.”
“In general, we recommend increasing your fish consumption to at least two servings a week. People who don’t eat fish because they don’t like it or are allergic to them could use algae-based omega-3s.” said Manson.
However, she recommended that people speak to their health care provider first about whether an omega-3 fish oil supplement might be of benefit to them, “especially if they have risk factors for heart disease.”
A recent clinical study found that fish oil supplements can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and vitamin D significantly reduces cancer mortality. Overweight or obese participants who took vitamin D saw no benefit for cancer.
The results don’t mean everyone should start taking vitamin D and fish oil supplements to lower their risk of heart disease and cancer. People should speak to their doctor first to find out if fish oil is right for them.
However, those who are already taking a vitamin D supplement should be fine as long as they don’t take more than 4,000 IU of vitamin per day.