New research shows fish oil, vitamin D may not be worth it

Omega 3 oil supplement pill glows yellow

In recent years, many Americans have embraced vitamin D and fish oil pills, their enthusiasm fueled by a steady trickle of suggestive research studies linking higher levels of vitamin D with lower rates of cancer and other ills, and fish consumption with reduced heart disease. "A reduction in heart attacks this profound has not seen been since in primary prevention since the early trials of aspirin therapy".

The study also considered VITAL vitamin D, which is often recommended to improve bone health in elderly women and to support overall health.

It was the largest randomised controlled trial (where one group is given the intervention tested and another a placebo and the results are compared) performed to date, testing the benefits of omega-3 supplements for heart disease. These volunteers regularly took one gram of the drug with ethyl-eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (also omega-3, which is saturated with fish oil). The results apply best to people with similar characteristics to the study group and can not necessarily be generalised more broadly.

An industry that has largely been propped by a few studies that claim popping Vitamin D will keep your cancer risk at bay and Omega 3 pills will keep you safe from heart disease, among other ills. However, the good news is that for those at higher risk due to elevated triglycerides the use of prescription medicines can be associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes, albeit at a cost.

Not everyone with heart disease would necessarily benefit from the supplements participants received in the trial. from shutterstock.com. After 5 years, most participants who took placebo were no more likely to be diagnosed with cancer, heart disease or stroke than those who took 2000 IU of Vitamin D-3 a day. On the other hand, there is no difference in cardiovascular mortality or risk of stroke. "That group had 19 percent reduction in all major cardiovascular events, plus they had a 40 percent reduction in heart attack".

Doctors say this is puzzling because past research has suggested fish oil lowers the risk of arrhythmia.

So, what are we to believe? Plus, the results are not just a reflection of the treatment under examination but also of the quality of the studies included. There is no other way it would have been done and if the results stand up it could save millions of lives, but some will question the veracity of the findings because of the funding source. "This is the best way to get it and not spend $30 on a bottle of supplements at a health food store". Eating fish is still good for you. Cold water, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and tuna contain the most. Those who were already having two or more servings of fish per week did not appear to have clear benefit. These have not been studied as extensively as those of marine origin.

"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. Many insurers limit coverage of them - Repatha, sold by Amgen, and Praluent, sold by Sanofi and Regeneron - and the guidelines say they're not cost-effective except for folks at the very highest risk.

In a first analysis focusing on the effects of Omega 3 supplements, 386 major cardiovascular events were reported in participants after a follow-up of about five years, compared to 419 events in the placebo group. It does advise health professionals consider the use of omega-3 supplements for those with high triglyceride levels and as an additional treatment for heart failure.

Garry Jennings is a professor of Medicine at the University of Sydney.

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