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Some over 70s benefit from Vitamin D and Omega-3

Thursday November 12th 2020

Taking vitamin D and omega-3 yields health benefits for some older people, according to a study published yesterday (11 November 2020).

Although the largest European study on old age, DO-HEALTH, found no effects on lower extremity function, memory or bone fracture incidence, the results suggested that, compared to the control group, some subgroups experienced increased benefits when it came to lowering infection rates and systolic blood pressure.

The international team of researchers, led by Professor Heike A. Bischoff-Ferrari, professor of geriatric medicine and aging research at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, recruited 2,157 relatively healthy men and women aged 70 or older who lived at home and had no significant pre-existing conditions.

They were randomised into eight groups and each received none, one, two or all three interventions of 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids a day, 2000 IU a day of vitamin D and / or a simple home-exercise programme. The control groups were given placebos and carried out control exercises focused on joint flexibility.

Every year in the three-year study, the seven European trial centres conducted comprehensive full-day visits to observe participants' health and functions, examining bone and muscle density, blood pressure, memory functions, walking speed as well as important biomarkers.

They also recorded events such as new diseases, infections, falls, visits to the doctor and hospital stays and carried out extensive surveys over the phone every three months.

Prof Bischoff-Ferrari said: “Our findings suggest that supplementation of vitamin D and omega-3s in adults aged 70 or older who lead an active lifestyle and have no pre-existing conditions does not provide any benefits when it comes to bone health, memory and muscle function. However, we believe there is an effect on infections, such as COVID-19.”

She said that omega-3s reduced the risk of infections by 11%, in particular for upper respiratory by 10% and urinary tract infections by 62%. Vitamin D lowered systolic blood pressure in men by 2.5 mmHg and the risk of infections in younger participants (70 to 74-year-old) by 16%.

“Given the high safety and low costs of these supplements as well as the high mortality associated with infections in older adults, these findings are very relevant for the health of the general population,” said Prof Bischoff-Ferrari.

She added that the gender-specific effects of vitamin D on lowering systolic blood pressure warrant additional research.

Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Vellas B, Rizzoli R et al. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation, Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation, or a Strength-Training Exercise Program on Clinical Outcomes in Older Adults. The DO-HEALTH Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 11 November 2020; doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.16909

Tags: Alternative Therapy | Diet & Food | Elderly Health | Europe | Heart Health

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