Reducing the risk of Cancer, Stroke and Heart Disease – major new study testing Omega 3 fish oils and vitamin D3

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Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke are undeniably the three most major health problems we all face today and indeed are three biggest killers in the Western World. Anything that can be done to reduce the number of people becoming sick or dying as a result of these diseases has got to be welcome news.

Both Vitamin D and Omega 3 fish oils have been hitting the headlines lately due to their potential to have a positive impact on overall health as well as specifically on certain health problems and diseases. Now a major new US study is underway which is aiming to test the effectiveness of Omega 3 fish oils and Vitamin D3 for reducing the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and stroke.

The VITAL Study

VITAL (VITamin and omegA-3 triaL) is being carried out by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston Massachusetts and will be funded by the National Institutes of Health.

VITAL began recruiting volunteers in January and will continue to recruit throughout the rest of this year. However, it’s not necessary to live in the area as no clinic visits are necessary and all the supplements and questionnaires will be sent by post.

What’s different?

To date there have been numerous studies involving all sorts of nutrients, including Vitamin D and Omega 3, many of them concentrating on the positive effect they can have on people who are already sick, but what about preventing disease in the first place?

What is different about this study is that first of all it will be a huge trial involving around 20,000 volunteers, but it will also only be recruiting healthy volunteers.

Large Primary Prevention Trials Lacking

In the detailed description of the trial it states “Existing data from laboratory studies, epidemiologic research, small primary prevention trials, and/or large secondary prevention trials strongly suggest that these nutritional agents may reduce risk for cancer or cardiovascular disease, but large primary prevention trials with adequate dosing in general populations are lacking.”

As this is such a large study on healthy people it means we will be able to more clearly identify the protective benefits over a period of time.

 According to VITAL researchers “Although the omega-3s haven’t made headlines as often as vitamin D lately, scientific research regarding their health benefits remains promising though inconclusive. VITAL is the first and only large trial to study the health effects of omega-3 supplements in people who are generally healthy.”

 Who can take part?

If you are interested in taking part, then you are eligible to participate in the trial if you are a woman aged 55 or over, or a man aged 50 or older and you have not previously suffered from a heart attack, cancer or stroke. However, you must also agree not to take other fish oil supplements or vitamin D supplements at a level of more than 800 IU daily, throughout the trial.

4 Groups

Each of the volunteers will be randomly assigned to one of 4 groups and will be given two pills a day. These will be a Vitamin D3 supplement and an Omega 3 supplement, or a vitamin D3 placebo and an Omega 3 placebo, or a Vitamin D3 supplement and an Omega 3 placebo, or an Omega 3 supplement and a Vitamin D3 placebo. The amount of Vitamin D3 given in the trial will be 2000 IU and the amount of Omega 3 fish oil will be 1 gram.

The participants will also be required to complete a questionnaire each year that will ask questions about health, lifestyle, exercise, diet, smoking, medication and dietary supplements, family medical history and any new medical diagnosis.

Ancillary Studies

In addition to the main study, VITAL will also conduct ancillary studies to determine other health benefits of Omega 3 and Vitamin D including their effect on the risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Memory Loss or Cognitive Decline
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Infections
  • Depression
  • Chronic knee pain symptoms
  • Physical disability and falls

Reducing risk

Prevention is better than cure as they say so if taking a simple supplement such as Vitamin D or Omega 3 fish oil can reduce the risk then great. There is a slight concern with Vitamin D as too much of it can lead to vitamin toxicity, however, as far the VITAL study is concerned, the researchers have taken steps to ensure that no one will be deficient in Vitamin D and no one will receive too much.

We can get Vitamin D from sunlight but our bodies are unable to make Omega 3 fatty acids so we have to source them from the diet, however, as it isn’t advisable to eat too much fish, the main source of Omega 3 fatty acids, we are kind of stuck unless we supplement with fish oil.

The VITAL study is due to last until June 2016 so we’ll have to wait 5 years for the final results which will identify once and for all the protective benefits of these vitally important nutrients. However, why wait for five years as there is enough evidence to show that adequate amounts of Vitamin D and Omega 3 are absolutely necessary for good health.

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