Breaking News
December 13, 2018 - Zogenix Announces Positive Phase 3 Trial Results on the Efficacy and Safety of Fintepla (ZX008) in Dravet Syndrome
December 13, 2018 - BCR ABL Genetic Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
December 13, 2018 - Caffeinated beverages during pregnancy linked to lower birth weight babies
December 13, 2018 - Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report examines opportunity to democratize health care
December 13, 2018 - Obsessive-compulsive disorder may protect individuals from obesity
December 13, 2018 - Scientists investigate how a painful event is processed in the brain
December 13, 2018 - Genetic study reveals new insights into underlying causes of moderate-to-severe asthma
December 13, 2018 - Vitamin C supplementation for pregnant smokers may reduce harm to infants’ lungs
December 13, 2018 - New study reveals yin-yang personality of dopamine
December 13, 2018 - Long-term Benefit of Steroid Injections for Knee Osteoarthritis Challenged
December 13, 2018 - Adding new channels to the brain remote control
December 13, 2018 - In the Spotlight: A different side of neuroscience
December 13, 2018 - Medical Marvels: Using immunotherapy for melanoma that spread to the brain
December 13, 2018 - Puzzles do not keep dementia away finds study
December 13, 2018 - New mouse model shows potential for rapid identification of promising muscular dystrophy therapies
December 13, 2018 - Study reveals urban and rural differences in prenatal exposure to essential and toxic elements
December 13, 2018 - New collaborative partnership in quest of novel antibiotics
December 13, 2018 - Single tau molecule holds clues to help diagnose neurodegeneration in its earliest stages
December 13, 2018 - AHA Scientific Statement: Low Risk of Side Effects for Statins
December 13, 2018 - What Is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?
December 13, 2018 - How bereaved people control their thoughts without knowing it
December 13, 2018 - Health care democratization underway, according to 2nd annual Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report | News Center
December 13, 2018 - Going Beyond a Single Color
December 13, 2018 - London-based startup launches ‘thedrug.store’ aiming to clean up CBD industry
December 13, 2018 - Loss of tight junction barrier protein results in gastric cancer development
December 13, 2018 - Novel way to efficiently deliver anti-parasitic medicines
December 13, 2018 - RKI publishes new data on disease prevention and utilization of medical services
December 13, 2018 - High-tech, flexible patches sewn into clothes could help to stay warm
December 13, 2018 - The CCA releases three reports on requests for medical assistance in dying
December 13, 2018 - Restoring Hair Growth on Scarred Skin? Mouse Study Could Show the Way
December 13, 2018 - Probiotic use may reduce antibiotic prescriptions, researchers say
December 13, 2018 - Drug repositioning strategy identifies potential new treatments for epilepsy
December 13, 2018 - Chronic rhinitis associated with hospital readmissions for asthma and COPD patients
December 13, 2018 - Food poisoning discovery could save lives
December 13, 2018 - Cloned antibodies show potential to treat, diagnose life-threatening fungal infections
December 13, 2018 - Exercise may reduce colorectal cancer risk after weight loss
December 13, 2018 - Russian scientists create hardware-information system for brain disorders treatment
December 13, 2018 - Moderate alcohol consumption linked with lower risk of hospitalization
December 13, 2018 - Nurturing Healthy Neighborhoods | NIH News in Health
December 13, 2018 - Rise in meth and opioid use during pregnancy
December 13, 2018 - Researchers gain new insights into pediatric tumors
December 13, 2018 - FSU study finds racial disparity among adolescents receiving flu vaccine
December 13, 2018 - Study investigates attitudes toward implementation of ‘sex as a biological variable’ policy
December 13, 2018 - Drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off energy supply
December 13, 2018 - Baculovirus virion completely eliminates liver-stage parasites in mouse model
December 13, 2018 - Researchers create noninvasive technology that detects when nerve cells fire
December 13, 2018 - Allen Institute for Immunology to partner with CU Anschutz to understand dynamics of human immune system
December 13, 2018 - Inability to do daily living tasks delays discharge of mental health patients
December 13, 2018 - Treating patients with hypertension induced albuminuria
December 13, 2018 - New substance could improve efficacy of established breast cancer treatments
December 13, 2018 - Scientists develop new stem cell line to study conversion of stem cells into muscle
December 13, 2018 - Re-programming the body’s energy pathway boosts kidney self-repair
December 13, 2018 - Research findings could help improve treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders
December 13, 2018 - The Microbiome Movement announce Microbiotica as official industry partner
December 13, 2018 - New study reveals potential benefits of cEEG monitoring for infant ICU patients
December 13, 2018 - Whole-body imaging PET/MRI offers information to guide treatment options for prostate cancer
December 13, 2018 - International investigators fight against the negative campaign on benzodiazepines
December 13, 2018 - Targeting biochemical pathway may lead to new therapies for alleviating symptoms of anxiety disorders
December 13, 2018 - FDA Approves Tolsura (SUBA®-itraconazole capsules) for the Treatment of Certain Fungal Infections
December 13, 2018 - Are scientists studying the wrong kind of mice?
December 13, 2018 - Computer memory: A scientific team builds a virtual model of a key brain region
December 13, 2018 - Visual inspection alone is insufficient to diagnose skin cancer
December 13, 2018 - Paternal grandfather’s access to food associated with grandson’s mortality risk
December 13, 2018 - Our brain senses angry voices in a flash, study shows
December 13, 2018 - PM2.5 Exposure Linked to Asthma Rescue Medication Use
December 13, 2018 - Can’t exercise? A hot bath may help improve inflammation, metabolism, study suggests
December 13, 2018 - Can artificial intelligence help doctors with the human side of medicine?
December 13, 2018 - Virginia Tech and UC San Diego researchers team up to develop nonopioid drug for chronic pain
December 13, 2018 - NIH offers support for HIV care and prevention research in the southern United States
December 12, 2018 - Activating brain region could revive the urge to socialize among opioid addicts
December 12, 2018 - Relationship impairment appears to interfere with seeking mental health treatment in men
December 12, 2018 - Sleep, Don’t Cram, Before Finals for Better Grades
December 12, 2018 - Effective treatments for urticarial vasculitis
December 12, 2018 - Gun violence is a public health issue: One physician’s story
December 12, 2018 - The Science of Healthy Aging
December 12, 2018 - Yes to yoghurt and cheese: New improved Mediterranean diet
December 12, 2018 - Researchers uncover a number of previously unknown insecticide resistance mechanisms
December 12, 2018 - Regulating the immune system’s ‘regulator’
December 12, 2018 - In breaking bad news, the comfort of silence
December 12, 2018 - Study finds upward link between alcohol consumption and physical activity in college students
Big studies give mixed news on fish oil, vitamin D

Big studies give mixed news on fish oil, vitamin D

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Big studies give mixed news on fish oil, vitamin D
This undated photo provided by Amarin in November 2018 shows a capsule of the purified, prescription fish oil Vascepa. Although fish oil taken by healthy people, at a dose found in many supplements, showed no clear ability to lower heart or cancer risks, higher amounts of a purified, prescription fish oil, such as Vascepa, slashed heart problems and heart-related deaths among people with high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and other risks for heart disease. (Amarin via AP)

Taking fish oil or vitamin D? Big studies give long-awaited answers on who does and does not benefit from these popular nutrients.

Fish oil taken by healthy people, at a dose found in many supplements, showed no clear ability to lower heart or cancer risks. Same for vitamin D.

But higher amounts of a purified, prescription fish oil slashed heart problems and heart-related deaths among people with high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and other risks for heart disease. Doctors cheered the results and said they could suggest a new treatment option for hundreds of thousands of patients like these.

Up to 10 percent of U.S. adults take fish oil . Even more take vitamin D , despite no major studies to support the many health claims made for it.

“Those who peddle it promote it as good for everything,” but in this definitive test, vitamin D “showed a big nothing,” said Dr. James Stein, a heart specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He had no role in the studies or ties to the companies involved.

Results were revealed Saturday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

ABOUT FISH OIL

These oils, also called omega-3 fatty acids, are found in salmon, tuna and certain other fish. They reduce triglycerides and inflammation and may have other effects . There are different types, including EPA and DHA.

One study tested 4 grams a day of Amarin Corp.’s prescription Vascepa, which is concentrated EPA, in more than 8,000 patients with high triglycerides and a greater risk of heart problems for various reasons. All were already taking a statin such as Lipitor or Zocor to lower cholesterol. Half were given Vascepa and the rest, mineral oil capsules as a comparison.

After five years, about 17 percent of those on Vascepa had suffered one of these problems—a heart attack, stroke, heart-related death or clogged arteries requiring medical care—versus 22 percent of the others.

That worked out to a 25 percent reduction in risk. Looked at individually, heart attacks, heart-related deaths and strokes all were lower with Vascepa. Only 21 people would need to take Vascepa for five years to prevent one of the main problems studied—favorable odds, Stein said.

Side effects may be a concern: More people on Vascepa were hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat—3 percent versus 2 percent of the comparison group. Doctors say that’s puzzling because other research suggests fish oil lowers that risk.

The concern with the heart rhythm problem is that it can raise the risk of stroke, but there were fewer strokes among those on Vascepa, said study leader Dr. Deepak Bhatt of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Vascepa costs around $280 a month; many insurers cover it. Amarin sponsored the study and some study leaders work or consult for the company.

A BROADER TEST

The other study tested a lower 1 gram daily dose of a different type of fish oil—an EPA/DHA combo sold as Lovaza or Omacor and in generic form—in 26,000 people with no prior heart problems or cancer.

After about five years, rates of a combined measure of heart attacks, strokes and other problems were similar for fish oil users and a comparison group. Cancer rates and deaths also were similar.

Big studies give mixed news on fish oil, vitamin D
This undated photo provided by Amarin in November 2018 shows capsules and packaging for the purified, prescription fish oil Vascepa. Although fish oil taken by healthy people, at a dose found in many supplements, showed no clear ability to lower heart or cancer risks, higher amounts of a purified, prescription fish oil, such as Vascepa, slashed heart problems and heart-related deaths among people with high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and other risks for heart disease. (Amarin via AP)

There were fewer heart attacks in the fish oil group—145 versus 200 in the comparison group. The study leader, Dr. JoAnn Manson at Brigham and Women’s, called that “a substantial benefit,” but several independent experts disagreed because of the way the study was set up to track this and certain other results.

“These findings are speculative and would need to be confirmed in a separate trial,” said the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Steven Nissen.

FISHY COMPARISONS?

Both studies share a problem: the oils used for the comparison groups, which may not have been true placebos. The Vascepa study used mineral oil, which interferes with statin drugs, raises cholesterol, and might have made the comparison group fare worse and made Vascepa look better than it truly was.

The other study used olive oil, which might have helped that comparison group do better, possibly masking any benefit to the others from fish oil.

Leaders of both studies say any effect from the comparison oils isn’t enough to alter the main results, and independent experts agreed. But Nissen, who is leading another fish oil study, is using corn oil as a comparison.

THE ‘SUNSHINE’ VITAMIN

Manson’s study also tested vitamin D, which the skin makes from sun exposure. It’s tough to get enough from foods like milk, eggs and oily fish, though many foods now are fortified with it. Some studies have found that people with lower levels of D are more likely to develop cancer, but it’s not known if supplements alter that risk.

Study participants took 2,000 international units of D-3 (the most active form of vitamin D, also called cholecalciferol) or fake vitamin pills for five years.

Vitamin D did not affect the odds of having a heart attack or stroke or developing cancer. After excluding the first two years of use, researchers saw fewer cancer deaths among those on the vitamin—112 versus 149 in the placebo group.

“Cancer can take years to develop” so a difference may not show up right away, Manson said. “This looks promising” and people will be studied longer to see if the trend holds up, she said.

Several other experts said these numbers just hint at a possible benefit that needs more study.

“These ‘positive’ results need to be interpreted with caution,” Dr. Clifford Rosen of Maine Medical Center Research Institute and Dr. John Keaney Jr. of the University of Massachusetts wrote in a commentary in the medical journal.


Explore further:
Aspirin disappoints for avoiding first heart attack, stroke

Journal reference:
New England Journal of Medicine

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles