Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids supplements fall short when it comes to disease prevention

Published: February, 2019

Image: © Hunterann/Thinkstock

Research we're watching

For years, many have speculated that taking vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplements might help to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and certain cancers. But a study by Harvard researchers published online November 10, 2018, by The New England Journal of Medicine has found that the benefits may be more limited than originally hoped.

The results of the Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL), which enrolled more than 25,000 people and ran for more than five years, showed that while omega-3 supplements did appear to reduce the risk of heart attack, particularly among African Americans, they did not appear to be effective in preventing stroke or cancer. Vitamin D supplements also saw few benefits when it came to preventing heart attack, stroke, or cancer — but they were associated with a drop in cancer deaths in people who had taken the supplements for at least a year or two.

Researchers will continue to follow study participants to gather additional information and will be releasing more findings from the study later this year.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.