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Does vitamin D or fish oil reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease or stroke? This is the question that researchers are striving to answer through VITAL (VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL), the world’s largest study of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
“Vitamin D and omega-3s are two of the most promising nutrients we’re aware of for preventing cancer, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases, but we need trials like VITAL to understand the benefits and risks,” said JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, chief of Preventive Medicine and principal investigator of VITAL. “One of our key goals is to reduce health disparities and to assess the role of vitamin D in narrowing gaps in health.”
For example, African-Americans have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and a greater frequency of diabetes, hypertension, stroke and certain types of cancer. VITAL researchers seek to discover if there is a link between the deficiency and these conditions.
“We are excited about the potential of vitamin D to reduce this health gap, but it’s important to get answers from randomized trials before recommending mega-doses of this supplement,” said Manson.
The study involves 20,000 men age 50 years and older and women 55 years and older, without a prior history of heart attack, stroke or cancer. Participants receive vitamin D, fish oil or placebo pills to take while in the study and complete annual questionnaires about their health and lifestyle.
As part of the five-year nationwide trial, researchers are recruiting 1,000 people to participate in a local Boston-area study that will give them the opportunity to attend clinical visits as well. The accompanying study (at 221 Longwood Ave.) will enable researchers to see if vitamin D and omega-3s have effects on blood glucose levels, blood pressure, bone mineral density, cardiac function, cognition, depression and other conditions. Local participants will be paid to attend two clinical visits—an initial visit followed by another two years later.
Learn more about the study or call 1-800-388-3963