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 severe heart problems as the combined rate of heart attacks, stroke, and heart-related deaths.
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 severe 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.
When researchers singled out heart attacks — rather than the rate of all severe 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.
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