There’s a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health that seeks to understand whether supplementing on a regular basis with Vitamin D3 (about 2000IU/day) and fish oil (about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids/day) can decrease rates of heart disease, stroke or cancer in people who do not have a history of these diseases. It’s called the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) research study, and will attempt to enroll 20,000 men and women in the US and follow their medical histories for a number of years. Note that the study will enroll only men over 60 and women over 65–ages at which heart disease, stroke and cancer begin to occur with greater frequency.
Here’s the website of the study, which is being run by Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA:
The designers of this research were interested in looking at both Vitamin D3 and fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids because of the accumulating evidence for the health benefits of these two widely investigated supplements, and because the two show different mechanisms of action in inhibiting inflammatory responses in the body. The study is designed to separate out the effect of each of the two supplements, but also investigate whether combining the two produces the added benefit in terms of disease prevention.
Note that there is already a great deal of evidence to support the health benefit of omega-3 fatty acids for people with heart disease. And there is likewise evidence to support the benefit of Vitamin D3 (plus calcium) for those with deficiency-related conditions like bone loss. The VITAL study, on the other hand, has the specific goal of looking at whether regular supplementation can actually prevent development of cardiovascular disease and/or cancer in healthy people.