- There’s now evidence that fish oil and vitamin D supplements, if taken daily over the course of a few years, have the ability to lower a person’s cancer and heart attack risk.
- Previous research that found vitamin D supplements were useless or even harmful in terms of providing health benefits.
- More research is needed to determine who exactly may benefit most from fish oil and vitamin D supplements.
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There’s now evidence that fish oil and vitamin D supplements, if taken daily over the course of a few years, may lower a person’s cancer and heart attack risk, despite previous research that found vitamin D supplements are useless in providing health benefits.
The new study, which researchers presented at The North American Menopause Society’s annual meeting on September 24, is one of the largest in recent years to look at how two popular supplements, vitamin D and fish oil, could decrease cancer risk and cardiovascular disease risk.
The researchers looked at nearly 26,000 American men who were at least 50 years old and women who were at least 55 years olds. Over a five-year period, the researchers had the men and women take 2,000 IU of vitamin D supplements daily and 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of a fish oil supplement daily. The upper limit of daily vitamin D intake for adults is 4,000 IU, according to The National Institutes of Health.
They found that daily fish oil supplement intake significantly reduced a person’s risk of heart attack risk and daily vitamin D supplement intake significantly reduced a person’s risk of death from all types of cancer.
Additionally, researchers found the benefits of fish oil were the greatest in people who ate fewer than 1.5 servings of fish per week. They also found that African Americans had the greatest reduction in both cancer risk and heart attack risk when placed on the years-long supplement regimen.
Previous research suggested vitamin D supplements are a waste of money
These findings are at odds with previous research that suggested vitamin D supplements have no added benefits for heart health and are therefore a waste of money for most healthy people.
A meta-analysis published June 19 in JAMA Cardiology looked at looked at over 83,000 people in 21 previous studies. Half of those people took vitamin D supplements for over a year.
The researchers found those who were taking vitamin D supplements didn’t have a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack, nor were they any less likely to die of any cause, meaning the vitamin D supplements they used seemed to be ineffective.
It’s important to note, however, that many of the studies the researchers included in their meta-analysis weren’t looking for a specific link between heart disease and vitamin D consumption.
Another meta-analysis, published on June 8 in Annals of Internal Medicine, included 105 previous studies and looked at how 16 different types of supplements including vitamin D and omega-3 affected people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease, as well as their risk of dying from any cause over the given period.
Vitamin D was found to have no benefits for reducing the risk of any of the above conditions, but the researchers found omega-3 supplements reduced a person’s heart attack risk, which is in line with the new study’s findings on omega-3 in the form of fish oil.
Another study suggested vitamin D could harm your health
An April study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that vitamin D supplements could actually increase a person’s risks for cancer and death if they did not have a vitamin D deficiency.
That makes the new study’s results all the more surprising.
The researchers did point out some caveats, though, namely that there’s a possibility the increased benefits seen in African Americans could be related to socioeconomic status and a lack of overall nutrition compared to other people in the study.
“The pattern of findings suggests a complex balance of benefits and risks for each intervention and points to the need for additional research to determine which individuals may be most likely to derive a net benefit from these supplements,” Dr. JoAnn Manson, lead author of the study, said in a press release.
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