Vitamin D and fish oil supplements do not lower rates of cancer

Fish being sold at a market

"We have a very good, very big study that says neither vitamin D, nor fish oil, reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease", said Steven Nissen, M.D., chairman of Cleveland Clinic's Heart and Vascular Institute, who did not take part in the research.

Around 22 percent of Americans aged 60 or older take a daily omega-3 pill despite few studies to support the many health claims made for it.

The popularity of Omega-3 fish oil and Vitamin D supplements has soared over the last decade, as more consumers buy into claims that regular use will lower blood pressure, slow aging, and stave off various cancers and heart disease.

But another study testing 4 grams a day of Amarin Corp.'s Vascepa, which is concentrated EPA, found it slashed heart problems in people at higher risk for them because of high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and other reasons.

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.

For those with a family history of cardiovascular disease, lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke is vital. On the other hand, there is no difference in cardiovascular mortality or risk of stroke.

"The lower risk of heart attack was found particularly in those who have low fish consumption", Manson said.

A new study tested a third drug, Farxiga, in more than 17,000 diabetics with other heart risk factors and found a lower rate of hospitalization for heart failure or death from heart-related causes - 5 percent among those on the drug versus 6 percent in a placebo group after four years of use.

"Don't waste your money on those supplements", which are not well regulated and are of varying quality, said Dr. Deepak Bhatt of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "This looks promising" and people will be studied longer to see if the trend holds up, she said.

Almost 26,000 adult participants were involved, none of whom had a history of either heart disease or cancer.

There are many ways that omega-3 fatty acids could help heart health, Manson said.

Manson and her colleagues plan to publish data on the supplements' effects on other areas of health in coming months, including diabetes, memory and mental functioning, autoimmune disease, respiratory infections and depression.

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.

Both supplements have a reputation for being beneficial based on animal tests and observational studies involving large diverse populations or ethnic groups.

Now a new USA study has found that a component of fish oil can drastically reduce the risk.

Even a little fish oil seemed to help.

Glassberg and Manson agree that the best first step would be to increase fish in your diet.

For someone who's healthy but looking to prevent heart disease, "still at the top of my list is lifestyle", Glassberg said. That's the place to start because these are natural.

Harvard Medical School has more about omega 3 fatty acids and heart health.

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