Omega-3s, vitamin D, and strength training: Do any of these improve cardiovascular health in older adults? Original paper

In this 3-year randomized controlled trial that had older adults supplement with omega-3 fatty acids with or without vitamin D and/or perform resistance exercise, no effects on cardiovascular events or new-onset hypertension were found.

This Study Summary was published on February 6, 2024.

Quick Summary

In this 3-year randomized controlled trial that had older adults supplement with omega-3 fatty acids with or without vitamin D and/or perform resistance exercise, no effects on cardiovascular events or new-onset hypertension were found.

What was studied?

The effects of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and home-based strength training on cardiovascular risk factors and events in older adults.

The outcomes assessed were total cholesterol, HDL-C, LDL-C, triglycerides, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, troponin (a biomarker of heart damage), N-terminal prohormone of brain natriuretic peptide, new-onset hypertension, and cardiovascular events (i.e., heart attack, stroke, coronary revascularization, congestive heart disease, or cardiovascular mortality).

Who was studied?

2,157 older adults (aged ≥70; 62% women, 38% men) without apparent health conditions who were recruited from 1 of 7 cities in Europe.

Insufficient blood vitamin D levels were found in 41% of the participants at baseline, and over 80% of the participants reported being moderately physically active.

How was it studied?

In this 3-year randomized controlled trial, the researchers studied 3 interventions: daily supplementation with vitamin D3 (2,000 IU), daily supplementation with omega-3s (1,000 mg), and home-based strength training performed 3x per week. The strength training program consisted of walking up and down steps, standing up from a chair, standing on one leg, and using an elastic band to train the muscles of the back and shoulders.

There was a control for each of these interventions, which was a placebo (for vitamin D), sunflower oil (for omega-3s), and flexibility training. In total, there were 8 groups.

Vitamin D or placeboOmega-3s or placeboStrength training or flexibility training
Vitamin DOmega-3sStrength training
Vitamin DOmega-3sFlexibility training
PlaceboOmega-3sStrength training
PlaceboOmega-3sFlexibility training
Vitamin DPlaceboStrength training
Vitamin DPlaceboFlexibility training
PlaceboPlaceboStrength training
PlaceboPlaceboFlexibility training

What were the results?

Compared to the 4 groups that did not supplement with omega-3s, HDL-C increased (improved) (+3 mg/dL) in the 4 groups that supplemented with omega-3s. In contrast, there was a greater decrease (improvement) in total cholesterol (−5.8 mg/dL) and LDL-C (−4.3 mg/dL) in the groups that did not supplement with omega-3s, compared to the groups that supplemented with omega-3s.

In an analysis that compared the group that supplemented only with omega-3s to the group that received all 3 controls, triglycerides decreased (−3 mg/dL) in the group that supplemented with omega-3s.

There were no other differences between groups.

Anything else I need to know?

The study was not statistically powered to detect a significant reduction in cardiovascular events (there were only 81 events during the study). Also, the 3-year follow-up was probably too short to detect an effect on cardiovascular events, especially considering the generally good health status of the population studied.

This Study Summary was published on February 6, 2024.