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Study to analyze benefits of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids in older men and women

Study to analyze benefits of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids in older men and women

Tuesday, February 7, 2012. A study proposed by the University of Zurich, which promises to be Europe's largest of its kind to date, will evaluate the effects of an exercise program and/or supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids or vitamin D on the risk of age-related diseases, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, dementia and osteoporosis, in a senior population.

The Vitamin D3-Omega 3-Home Exercise-Healthy Aging and Longevity Trial (DO-HEALTH) will recruit over 2,000 men and women aged 70 and older residing in five European countries beginning in May of this year. Professor Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, who is the Director of the Centre on Aging and Mobility of Zurich University and her associates will assess the safety and efficacy of the three regimens on the risk of age-related conditions as well as on the ability to perform the activities of daily living. Participants will be evaluated at quarterly follow-up visits over a three year period, which will include yearly clinical examinations. "Various studies have shown that vitamin D and simple targeted exercise programs can significantly improve functional mobility and reduce falls and fractures in seniors, even by up to 30%," Dr Bischoff-Ferrari commented. "As well, omega 3 provides significant health benefits to seniors. DO-HEALTH hopes to provide definitive evidence that the three interventions, alone or combined, are able to reduce the number of fractures, the functional and cognitive decline, the risk of hypertension and the risk of infections in the senior population".

"The findings of this important new study may provide the critical evidence that will result in the implementation of simple, cost-effective strategies and medical recommendations to help tackle the growing burden of chronic diseases in Europe's senior population," noted Professor René Rizzoli, who is a board member of the International Osteoporosis Foundation and head of the Division of Bone Diseases, Department of Medical Specialties, Geneva University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine. "Health authorities must do all they can to ensure that senior citizens remain physically independent and active members of the community."

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Majority of postmenopausal women need more vitamin D

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A Position Statement prepared by the European Menopause and Andropause society (EMAS) published in the January, 2012 issue of the journal Maturitas reveals an undesirably low level of vitamin D in postmenopausal women and suggests the use of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 supplements accompanied by monitoring when needed. The text was signed by 11 international experts and defines optimal blood levels as ranging between 30 to 90 nanograms per milliliter. "We believe that many diseases can be aggravated by a chronic deficiency of vitamin D," stated project leader Faustino R. Pérez-López of the University of Zaragoza. "We analyzed the conditions and diseases that are associated with vitamin D deficiency and we recommended the intake of supplements in postmenopausal women."

Reduced vitamin D levels are estimated to affect 50 to 70 percent of Europeans. "Healthcare professionals should be aware that this is a common problem which affects a large part of the population in Europe, even those who live in sunny places," Dr Pérez-López noted. "The World Health Organisation or other relevant bodies belonging to the European Union should establish minimum requirements or recommendations on the fortification of foods with vitamin D."

Although the medical community still has not reached a consensus concerning vitamin D supplements, Dr Pérez-López remarked that "they are effective but its efficacy has not yet been accepted." He recommended that "Patients with risk factors associated with hypovitaminosis (obesity, pigmented skin, intestinal malabsorption syndromes and living in regions close to the North and South poles) should increase their intake to up to 4,000 IU per day."

"It is unknown what will happen in the future but we make our recommendations from the EMAS," he concluded. "This is the first statement on the matter in Europe directed towards menopausal women."

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