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Harvard Study Evaluates Vitamin D and Omega-3 Supplementation on Frailty Prevention

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ariela Orkaby, MD, MPH Geriatrics & Preventive Cardiology Associate Epidemiologist Division of Aging, Brigham and Women's Hospital  Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Orkaby

Ariela Orkaby, MD, MPH
Geriatrics & Preventive Cardiology
Associate Epidemiologist
Division of Aging, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: As the population is living longer, there is increased risk of frailty and vulnerability. Frailty is defined as reduced physiological reserve and decreased ability to cope with even an acute stress. Up to half of adults over the age of 85 are living with frailty and preventative measures are greatly needed. We tested the effect of vitamin D and marine omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the risk of developing frailty in healthy older adults in the US enrolled in the VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) trial.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response:  Over 5 years of intervention with vitamin D vs placebo or omega-3 vs placebo, neither supplement had any effect on change in frailty scores or incident frailty. Results were consistent using two leading definitions of frailty and in multiple sub groups.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In healthy, community dwelling older adults, supplementation with vitamin D or omega-3 is not an effective treatment strategy for frailty prevention. This is consistent with multiple other analyses from the VITAL trial, and others, which do not support routine use of vitamin D or omega 3 in generally healthy people.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: More work is needed to understand the role of vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation in nursing home and frail older adults.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? Any disclosures?

Response: Routine use of supplements should be reconsidered in healthy, community dwelling older adults. Clinicians should consider stopping unnecessary pills and instead promoting healthy lifestyle habits. Regular exercise and the Mediterranean diet are proven strategies for prevention of frailty and should be encouraged for all older adults.


Orkaby AR, Dushkes R, Ward R, et al. Effect of Vitamin D3 and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Risk of Frailty: An Ancillary Study of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(9):e2231206. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.31206

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Last Updated on September 15, 2022 by Marie Benz MD FAAD