A Harvard trial (called the VITAL study) studied almost 26,000 men and women taking supplements of vitamin D3 or omega-3 fish oil or both, to investigate any benefits in reducing the risks of cancer, heart disease or stroke. Despite overwhelming other evidence that both these nutritional supplements have shown anti-inflammatory benefits against these and other chronic diseases, this study concluded that neither supplements had any "significant" benefits against these chronic conditions.
The key word here is "significant". They arrived at this conclusion despite their calculated and stated 17-25% reduction in cancer risk from taking the vitamin D3 supplement! Their data said it DID have a benefit, yet their conclusion said it didn't! Great science there.
At least they did say that vitamin D3 was well tolerated, and people had few, if any, side effects. You can't say that about any pharmaceutical drug...
As for the omega-3 supplement, they noted an 8% reduction in risk for heart disease, which they again said was "not significant". But interestingly a subgroup DID see a very significant reduction in heart disease risk, being African Americans, who had a 19% reduced incidence of heart events or up to 77% reduction in heart attacks. Not significant?! Sure, nothing to see here, move along now...
How was the science manipulated to give their results as offering "no benefit", despite their data to the contrary? They simply did not use therapeutic doses of the vitamin D or omega-3 supplements! Simply by testing people on small or sub-optimal doses of the supplements, they produced results which didn't show a large benefit, or at least, not large enough for them to be "significant"!
Do I recommend vitamin D3 and omega-3 supplements? Yes, absolutely! But there are several things to keep in mind about this:
1) the quality of the product and ingredients. Not all vitamin D or fish oils are the same. There's a huge difference in quality and ingredients (and therefore, a difference in results) between cheap retail products and practitioner branded products
2) the dosing of the products. The dosing on retail products is simply a deficiency-preventing dose, similar to what was used in this study. For treatments of chronic health conditions, a therapeutic dose is needed for best results!
There are many good quality scientific studies on vitamin D and fish oils for their anti-inflammatory benefits for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, but their results are often negated by poor quality, poorly designed, and often biased studies paid for or "sponsored" by a group or company with a vested interest in the result. Even the editors of leading scientific journals have said in the media that up to 75% of studies are fake, manipulated or poorly designed.
On top of this all is the media's ability to misinterpret and sensationalise any result, both good or bad, to sell their news, which simply confuses people even more.
It's a shame that science can be bought, manipulated, or abused in this way.
I will keep taking fish oils and vitamin D supplements myself, and recommending them, because good quality scientific studies do show benefits, and I see this in myself and my clients too!