Tagged Study

Fish Oil And Vitamin D Pills No Guard Against Cancer Or Serious Heart Trouble

A widely anticipated study has concluded that neither vitamin D nor fish oil supplements prevent cancer or serious heart-related problems in healthy older people, according to research presented Saturday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Researchers defined serious heart problems as the combined rate of heart attacks, stroke and heart-related deaths.

Although hundreds of studies of these supplements have been published over the years, the new clinical trial — a federally funded project involving nearly 26,000 people — is the strongest and most definitive examination yet, said Dr. Clifford Rosen, a senior scientist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute who was not involved in the research.

Doctors have been keenly interested in learning the supplements’ true value, given their tremendous popularity with patients. A 2017 study found that 26 percent of Americans age 60 and older take vitamin D supplements, while 22 percent take pills containing omega-3 fatty acids, a key ingredient in fish oil.

The new study also suggests there’s no reason for people to undergo routine blood tests for vitamin D, said Rosen, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial. (Both were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.). That’s because the study found that patients’ vitamin D levels made no difference in their risk of cancer or serious heart issues, Rosen said. Even people who began the study with clear vitamin D deficiency got no benefit from taking the supplements, which provided 2,000 international units a day. This amount is equal to one or two of the vitamin D pills typically sold in stores.

A recent Kaiser Health News story reported that vitamin D testing has become a huge business for commercial labs — and an enormous expense for taxpayers. Doctors ordered more than 10 million vitamin D tests for Medicare patients in 2016 — an increase of 547 percent since 2007 — at a cost of $365 million.

“It’s time to stop it,” said Rosen of vitamin D testing. “There’s no justification.”

Dr. JoAnn Manson, the study’s lead author, agrees that her results don’t support screening healthy people for vitamin D deficiency.

But she doesn’t see her study as entirely negative.

Manson notes that her team found no serious side effects from taking either fish oil or vitamin D supplements.

“If you’re already taking fish oil or vitamin D, our results would not provide a clear reason to stop,” Manson said.

Manson notes that a deeper look into the data suggested possible benefits.

When researchers singled out heart attacks — rather than the rate of all serious heart problems combined — they saw that fish oil appeared to reduce heart attacks by 28 percent, Manson said. As for vitamin D, it appeared to reduce cancer deaths — although not cancer diagnoses — by 25 percent.

But slicing the data into smaller segments — with fewer patients in each group — can produce unreliable results, said Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the cancer prevention division at the National Cancer Institute. The links between fish oil and heart attacks — and vitamin D and cancer death — could be due to chance, Kramer said.

Experts agree that vitamin D is important for bone health. Researchers didn’t report on its effect on bones in these papers, however. Instead, they looked at areas where vitamin D’s benefits haven’t been definitely proven, such as cancer and heart disease. Although preliminary studies have suggested vitamin D can prevent heart disease and cancer, more rigorous studies have disputed those findings.

Manson and her colleagues plan to publish data on the supplements’ effects on other areas of health in coming months, including diabetes, memory and mental functioning, autoimmune disease, respiratory infections and depression.

Consumers who want to reduce their risk of cancer and heart disease can follow other proven strategies.

“People should continue to focus on known factors to reduce cancer and heart disease: Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, control high blood pressure, take a statin if you are high risk,” said Dr. Alex Krist, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Fish Oil And Vitamin D Pills No Guard Against Cancer Or Serious Heart Trouble

A widely anticipated study has concluded that neither vitamin D nor fish oil supplements prevent cancer or serious heart-related problems in healthy older people, according to research presented Saturday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Researchers defined serious heart problems as the combined rate of heart attacks, stroke and heart-related deaths.

Although hundreds of studies of these supplements have been published over the years, the new clinical trial — a federally funded project involving nearly 26,000 people — is the strongest and most definitive examination yet, said Dr. Clifford Rosen, a senior scientist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute who was not involved in the research.

Doctors have been keenly interested in learning the supplements’ true value, given their tremendous popularity with patients. A 2017 study found that 26 percent of Americans age 60 and older take vitamin D supplements, while 22 percent take pills containing omega-3 fatty acids, a key ingredient in fish oil.

The new study also suggests there’s no reason for people to undergo routine blood tests for vitamin D, said Rosen, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial. (Both were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.). That’s because the study found that patients’ vitamin D levels made no difference in their risk of cancer or serious heart issues, Rosen said. Even people who began the study with clear vitamin D deficiency got no benefit from taking the supplements, which provided 2,000 international units a day. This amount is equal to one or two of the vitamin D pills typically sold in stores.

A recent Kaiser Health News story reported that vitamin D testing has become a huge business for commercial labs — and an enormous expense for taxpayers. Doctors ordered more than 10 million vitamin D tests for Medicare patients in 2016 — an increase of 547 percent since 2007 — at a cost of $365 million.

“It’s time to stop it,” said Rosen of vitamin D testing. “There’s no justification.”

Dr. JoAnn Manson, the study’s lead author, agrees that her results don’t support screening healthy people for vitamin D deficiency.

But she doesn’t see her study as entirely negative.

Manson notes that her team found no serious side effects from taking either fish oil or vitamin D supplements.

“If you’re already taking fish oil or vitamin D, our results would not provide a clear reason to stop,” Manson said.

Manson notes that a deeper look into the data suggested possible benefits.

When researchers singled out heart attacks — rather than the rate of all serious heart problems combined — they saw that fish oil appeared to reduce heart attacks by 28 percent, Manson said. As for vitamin D, it appeared to reduce cancer deaths — although not cancer diagnoses — by 25 percent.

But slicing the data into smaller segments — with fewer patients in each group — can produce unreliable results, said Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the cancer prevention division at the National Cancer Institute. The links between fish oil and heart attacks — and vitamin D and cancer death — could be due to chance, Kramer said.

Experts agree that vitamin D is important for bone health. Researchers didn’t report on its effect on bones in these papers, however. Instead, they looked at areas where vitamin D’s benefits haven’t been definitely proven, such as cancer and heart disease. Although preliminary studies have suggested vitamin D can prevent heart disease and cancer, more rigorous studies have disputed those findings.

Manson and her colleagues plan to publish data on the supplements’ effects on other areas of health in coming months, including diabetes, memory and mental functioning, autoimmune disease, respiratory infections and depression.

Consumers who want to reduce their risk of cancer and heart disease can follow other proven strategies.

“People should continue to focus on known factors to reduce cancer and heart disease: Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, control high blood pressure, take a statin if you are high risk,” said Dr. Alex Krist, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Deadly Shootings Are Rising In U.S. After Steady Declines

After steadily declining for more than two decades, deadly shootings are rising across the country, according to a new government report.

The researchers also said that the number of suicides involving a firearm grew 21 percent between 2006 and 2016.

The report, published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at gun deaths around the country and in 50 major metropolitan areas. The researchers found a rise in gun homicides in 2015 and 2016, reversing a downward trend and bringing them to a level comparable to a decade ago.

It also reported that deadly shootings were up across all age groups nationwide.

“It is too soon to know whether recent increases in firearm homicide rates represent a short-term fluctuation or the beginning of a longer-term trend,” the report said.

The findings were released shortly after a gunman in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killed 12 people, including a county sheriff’s deputy, at a bar popular with college students, and less than two weeks after a gunman walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 people.

Despite the high publicity garnered by mass shootings in recent years, the Pew Research Center previously reported that the rate of firearm homicides began declining in the 1990s and then remained fairly flat from 2001 to 2014.

The federal researchers analyzed mortality and population data from the nation’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas to calculate both firearm homicides and suicides during two time periods, 2015-2016 and 2012-2013. The group also highlighted the rate of these incidents among 10- to 19-year-olds.

According to the report, more than 27,000 people were killed in gun homicides in 2015-2016, for a death rate of 4.4 per 100,000 people. The rate is higher for the 50 cities, where more than 17,000 people were killed, or 4.9 per 100,000 people.

By comparison, nearly 23,000 people died across the country and more than 14,000 died in those  cities from firearm homicide in 2012-2013.

Andrew Papachristos, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University who was not involved in the study, said changes in the level of gun violence can come from a variety of factors, including different police protocols, gang violence and general mistrust.

Efforts by the federal government to research gun violence have been governed by the Dickey Amendment, a legislative rider for funding that groups seeking tighter control of guns felt limited the CDC’s efforts to examine the issue. But federal health officials, including Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, say it does not impede federal research.

Nearly 45,000 people killed themselves with a gun in 2015-2016, more than 3,000 more than in 2012-2013, according to the report. The increase extended to city dwellers, too, although the rate of deaths among city dwellers was significantly lower than for the country as a whole.

Slightly more than 2,100 young people, including 851 in the major cities, died from firearm suicide in 2015-2016, according to the report.

The researchers noted that the sharp decade-long rise in gun suicides coincided partly with the Great Recession that began in 2007. But the increases have continued despite the economic recovery, they said.

The ease of access to a gun has been shown to be a key link to these acts. The time between deciding to commit suicide and attempting it can be as brief as 10 minutes, the report said, so finding a gun quickly can make the attempt much easier. Often, people do not try an alternative method when the highly lethal route is unavailable.

The report stressed proper storage of firearms to reduce the risk of suicide.

Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, who was not involved in the study, said mental health professionals struggle with trying to predict who is at risk.

“People act impulsively in moments of despair,” Metzl said. “And it may or may not be linked to psychiatric illness.”

Males also run a higher risk of dying by firearm suicide. According to the report, men and boys made up 85 percent of the deaths both in the 50 major cities and nationally.

Approximately the same share of men died by firearm homicide. However, it is important to note these issues affect different populations, Papachristos said. Minorities represent a disproportionate share of homicides, while suicide claims a disproportionate number of white men.