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New vitamin D and fish oil study: how you can participate

Posted Jun 28 2009 10:16pm

The National Institutes of Health is funding a study of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids to determine whether taking these supplements can reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and stroke in people who have no history of any of these conditions.

The study, called VITAL (VITamin D and OmegA-3 triaL) will include 20,000 men and women. Recruitment for the trial will begin in January 2010.

Would you like to participate? Even though the study is being run by Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, people from anywhere across the United States can be a part of the study. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is eligible for VITAL?
Any woman aged 65 or older or man aged 60 or older who has not previously experienced a heart attack, stroke, or cancer (you can enroll if you have had skin cancer) may be eligible to participate in the study. Potential participants must fill out a questionnaire, and those chosen for the study will be contacted by the study team.

How VITAL works
The study is designed for participants to take about 2000 IU vitamin D and/or about 1 gram of fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids), or placebo, daily. The chosen participants will receive their necessary supplements and instructions via mail. Eligible individuals will be randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: (1) take both vitamin D and fish oil; (2) take vitamin D and placebo fish oil; (3) take placebo vitamin D and fish oil; or (4) take placebo vitamin D and placebo fish oil.

For each year individuals participate in the study, they will need to complete a questionnaire, which can be completed in about 15 to 20 minutes. The questions are about habits such as exercise, diet, smoking, use of medications, family history of illness, and use of dietary supplements. Participants will occasionally be contacted by telephone to verify or collect information.

Participants must agree to limit their intake of vitamin D (besides the supplements provided by the study) to no more than 800 IU daily and to limit calcium supplement intake to 1200 me or less daily.

How to enroll in the study

You can visit the study website ( ) after Labor Day, and instructions on how to receive a questionnaire and introductory materials will be posted.

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