Does fish oil help?
A major government-funded study has concluded that taking vitamin D or omega-3 supplements does not significantly lower the incidence of cancer or heart disease, though some people do seem to benefit. Researchers recruited 25,000 Americans, all over 50 and with no history of cancer or of heart attack, stroke, or other forms of heart disease. The participants were each given a daily regimen: vitamin D, omega-3, or a placebo. After five years, there was only a tiny, statistically insignificant difference in heart disease and cancer rates between those taking the supplements and those on placebos, reports The New York Times. Study leader JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women’s Hospital says, however, that the trial did suggest the supplements have benefits in limited circumstances. Taking omega-3 reduced the risk for heart attack 28 percent among people who didn’t regularly eat fish. People taking vitamin D supplements were 25 percent less likely to die from cancer, possibly because the supplement slows the growth of tumors. But further research is needed to explain those findings. “The data have to be very strong before you go out and recommend to everyone in the world to take supplements,” says Manson. “We’re certainly not doing that.” Eating fish and a healthy diet, she says, are more effective. ■