Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids do not lower risk of frailty, shows study

Credit: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay.

In a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, scientists examined whether vitamin D3 or marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation reduced the risk of frailty.

Frailty is most often defined as an aging-related syndrome of physiological decline, characterized by marked vulnerability to adverse health outcomes.

Scientists define frailty as a distinct clinical syndrome meeting three or more of five phenotypic criteria: weakness, slowness, low level of physical activity, self-reported exhaustion, and unintentional weight loss.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in a few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.

It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal bone mineralization.

Vitamin D is essential for a range of bodily functions such as bone, muscle, and immune health.

Vitamin D2 and D3 are the two main forms of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is present in plants and yeast, while D3 comes from animal sources.

omega-3 fats are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes.

They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation.

These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Does supplementation with vitamin D3 and omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of frailty?

To answer the question, in this study researchers examined more than 25,000 people aged 50 years or older.

They aimed to test the effects of vitamin D3 and omega-3 supplements on change in frailty in these older people.

These participants had no cancer or heart disease and provided information on frailty.

They were recruited across all 50 US states from November 2011 to March 2014 and followed up through December 31, 2017. The people took vitamin D3, 2000 IU/day, and marine omega-3 fatty acids, 1 g/day.

The researchers found neither vitamin D3 nor omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, compared with placebo, strongly affected change in frailty score during 5 years of treatment.

The results of this study do not support the routine use of vitamin D3 or omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in generally healthy older people for the prevention of frailty.

Future work is needed to see if vitamin D3 may help reduce frailty in older people with vitamin D deficiency.

The study was conducted by Ariela Orkaby et al and published in JAMA Network Open.

Copyright © 2022 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.