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Vitamin D

VITAL: Trial will Examine Vitamin D and Omega-3 Supplements

Saturday, November 28, 2009 by: Jeremiah Smith, PharmD
Tags: vitamin D, omega-3, health news

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(NewsTarget) Research to further elucidate the connection between vitamin D and health is ongoing. One major study in the works is called the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL, or VITAL. It is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and will enroll 20,000 participants. Those eligible for the study are women aged 65 or older, and men aged 60 or older. Participants must have no prior history of cancer, heart disease or stroke. VITAL is scheduled to begin in January 2010 and will run for five years.

Vitamin D and fish oil are to be evaluated, alone and in combination, for their ability to decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. The impact of supplementation will also be measured for other conditions including osteoporosis, diabetes, memory loss and depression. Another question that could be answered by this trial relates to health disparities. African Americans are much more likely to be vitamin D deficient because of greater skin pigmentation. They also experience higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and some cancers, compared to the general population. Vitamin D supplementation may be one way to bring those rates down and bridge the health gap.

Participants will receive study supplements and instructions by mail. They are asked to avoid taking any fish oil supplements of their own, and to limit their personal supplemental intake of vitamin D to 800 IU per day. Questionnaires will be sent out annually to collect information on health, lifestyle habits and medication use. No clinic visits are required. This means that the accuracy of the data will depend on participant compliance with instructions and honest self-reporting.

Participants who are randomly assigned to receive vitamin D will be asked to take 2,000 IU daily, which is the current upper limit of intake set by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). According to a report from the Annals of Epidemiology on vitamin D and cancer prevention, an intake of 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day will generally raise blood levels to 40-60 ng/mL. Projections show that if everyone in the US and Canada attained such blood levels, approximately 58,000 cases of breast cancer and 49,000 cases of colorectal cancer could be prevented each year.

The current IOM recommendations were determined in the mid 1990's based upon the amount of vitamin D necessary to prevent rickets and osteomalacia. This was before epidemiological evidence had clearly shown that the amount required to achieve optimal vitamin D status and prevent chronic disease is much higher. At present, the IOM is meeting to evaluate this new evidence and review their intake recommendations.

Monitoring blood levels of 25(OH)D is the only reliable way to determine an individual's vitamin D status, which should be used to guide dosing for that individual. There are a number of factors, in addition to dosing, that influence blood levels, such as frequency and duration of sun exposure, distance from the equator, and skin pigmentation. There is no mention of plans to check the blood level of participants in the VITAL study.

References:

The Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL)
(http://www.vitalstudy.org/)

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D
(http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/fact...)

Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center: Vitamin D
(http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitami...)

GrassrootsHealth
(http://www.grassrootshealth.net/)

Vitamin D Council
(http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/)

Garland CF, Gorham ED, Mohr SB, Garland FC. Vitamin D for Cancer Prevention: Global Perspective. Ann Epidemiol 2009;19:468-483.

About the author

Jeremiah Smith is a licensed and practicing pharmacist with a strong interest in nutrition and natural medicine. He is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping others achieve optimal health. Smith writes articles on a range of topics related to wellness. You can visit his website at (http://www.anewvision.info/)


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