Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and Exercise: How Helpful Are They?


Latest health news for seniors

From Alan Mozes HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, November 13th, 2020

Vitamin D, fish oil supplements and strength training have long been touted for their health benefits, but none of them – either in combination or alone – increases physical or mental performance or prevents bone fractures for healthy seniors, report Swiss researchers.

For three years, they tracked more than 2,100 men and women (mean age: 74) who were randomly assigned to a program with one or more of the three health interventions.

The result: “The results suggest that extra vitamin D and omega-3 [fish oil] Taking it in active adults over 70 without previous illnesses does not benefit the risk of non-vertebral fractures or muscle and memory function, “says study director Dr. Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, head of geriatrics and geriatric research at the University Hospital Zurich.

But the takeaway wasn’t entirely daunting.

Ongoing analysis suggests that consuming one gram of fish oil per day reduced the overall risk of infections in seniors by 11%. And some specific infection risks decreased even further – including a dramatic 62% reduction in urinary tract infections, a common condition in the elderly.

Even when their risk of fractures wasn’t improved, participants who took 2000 IU of vitamin D daily saw a “significant” drop in their systolic (upper) blood pressure, Bischoff-Ferrari said. Vitamin D supplementation was also linked to a 16% decrease in the overall risk of infection in 70 to 74 year olds.

“Given the safety and affordability of the supplements, as well as the high death rate from infections in older adults, these results are relevant to public health,” she said.

The researchers also tested the effects of two exercise programs: a strength training program and an “attention control exercise program” for joint flexibility. Each consisted of three 30-minute sessions per week. Some participants either exercised or took dietary supplements; others have done a mix of both.

For participants with no major pre-existing health problems, the researchers found no statistically significant health benefit from the therapies. They said that most of the participants started the study in great shape, which may have limited the chance of showing greater benefits.

“Over 80 percent were moderately to vigorously physically active, and about half were healthy people with no comorbidities,” said Bischoff-Ferrari. “In fact, all participants improved their blood pressure, cognitive function, and lower limb function over the three years.”

Another aggravating factor could be the amount of daily supplement tested, said Lona Sandon, director of clinical nutrition at Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas at Dallas, who reviewed the results.

“One of my first thoughts on this study is, was the dose of intervention enough to make a difference?” said Sandon. “The vitamin D dose was only 2000 IU … [which is] is considered the current upper limit for vitamin D. However, there is much scientific controversy about how much vitamin D is really the upper limit and is needed to change blood levels. We make a lot more vitamin D from sunlight. “

The fish oil dose is also relatively low, Sandon noted. Studies showing benefits for things like reducing inflammation are using much higher doses, and resistance training is also below current recommendations of two hours a week, she added.

“Only about two-thirds of the participants said they met the 30-minute, three days / week [requirement]”Said Sandon. “So do the results surprise me? Not at all with these doses. “

Her conclusion: “Getting enough vitamin D in our diet and sunshine is good for us and important,” said Sandon. “Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for the body and also for proper functioning. Exercise helps us function better physically and mentally. People shouldn’t give up on eating healthy and moving around. I don’t see any disadvantage in any of these things. . “


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The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on November 10th.

More information

For more information on seniors and health recommendations, visit the US National Institute on Aging.

SOURCES: Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, MD, Dr.PH, Chair, Clinic for Geriatrics and Aging Research, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, and Director, Center for Aging and Mobility, University Hospital and City Hospital Waid, Zurich; Lona Sandon, Ph.D., RDN, LD, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition and Director, Masters of the Coordinated Clinical Nutrition Program, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Journal of the American Medical Association, November 10, 2020

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