Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Randomly Recruited for Boston Med Study on D + Fish Oil – How I Responded

I got an interesting letter in the mail recently, recruiting me for an over-50 medical study in Boston on the effects of vitamin D and fish-oil pills on cancer and other diseases. Here's how I responded (basically, no thanks!).

I had a few comments on the viability of the study itself.

First, I wouldn't participate, because I'd suspect that limiting myself to 800 IU of vitamin D during New England winters for years would end up undermining my health. [The protocol required participants to take either 800 or 2,000 IU, depending on whether they got a placebo or not.] I take on average 2,000 - 4,000 IU per day (and last Summer tried to use UV rays only; it kept my serum D level in the mid 30s ng/ml).

I also get some D amounts from foods like fish and whey protein powder. If I limited myself to 800 IU in the higher latitudes I suspect that my D blood level would drop well below 30 ng/ml.

Second, I don't think the study's 2,000 IU non-placebo amount is enough to make a difference for people over 50. You should be using at least 4,000 IU for it to show some results. Third, fish oil pills are not effective, as indicated by many recent studies. One must get Omega 3 from fish, shellfish, like the the Inuits, or pastured eggs, for example. See this good summation:

http://blogs.courier-journal.com/prime/2012/11/10/fish-oil-supplements-there-is-no-free-lunch/

The goals of the study are obviously very important, but the study protocol needs to be changed. For example, up the IU amount of the D supplement, and (somehow) require the participants to eat salmon, arctic char, and the like in controlled amounts. You could test their Omega 6 : 3 ratio (similar to an A1C test of glycation in red blood cells) to monitor their progress.

Also, it would be nice if the study lasted longer than five years, because it takes so long for many conditions to develop.


I wrote extensively about Omega 3 and 6, and healthy fats in general, as well as tested your ratio for 6 :: 3, in Fitness For Geeks.