In a new study, researchers found examined the effects of simple measures on the health of healthy adults aged 70 or older.
Their initial analyses suggest that vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and strength-training exercises do not strongly improve bone health, leg function, and memory.
Nevertheless, certain groups of people could still benefit from these supplements. When taking supplements, these people had lower infection rates and systolic blood pressure.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Zurich.
In 2030, one in three people in Europe will be over the age of 65, and all of these people will want to enjoy their old age and lead an active lifestyle.
To be able to do so, however, it is crucial that people maintain their physical and mental health.
A previous study in the US found that vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids did not lower the risk of developing new cancer or major cardiovascular diseases in men and women aged between 50 and 60.
In this study, the team tested the effects of these supplements on aging.
The first findings of the three-year clinical trial found no effects on lower extremity function, memory, or bone fracture incidence.
However, the study’s findings suggest that, compared to the control group, some subgroups experienced increased benefits of vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation when it comes to lowering infection rates and systolic blood pressure.
For the study, the researchers recruited 2,157 relatively healthy men and women aged 70 or older who lived at home and had no significant pre-existing conditions.
About half of the participants came from Switzerland, followed by Austria, Germany, France and Portugal.
They were randomized into eight groups and received none, one, two or all three of the following interventions: supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids (1 gram/day), supplementation of vitamin D (2,000 IU/day) and/or a simple home-exercise program.
The findings suggest that supplementation of vitamin D and omega-3s in adults aged 70 or older who lead an active lifestyle and have no pre-existing conditions may help lower risks of infection (e.g., COVID-19) and high blood pressure.
Omega-3s reduced the risk of infections by 11% in total, in particular for upper respiratory (10%) and urinary tract infections (62%), while vitamin D lowered systolic blood pressure in men by 2.5 mmHg and the risk of infections in younger participants (70 to 74-year-old) by 16%.
However, there was no effect on bone health, muscle function, and memory.
The team says these findings are very relevant for the health of the general population.
They attribute the lack of effect on the relatively good health of the study’s participants, most of whom took regular exercise.
Moreover, about half of the participants were so-called healthy agers, with no pre-existing conditions or vitamin D insufficiency.
The results therefore do not contradict the Federal Office of Public Health’s current recommendation on vitamin D supplementation and fall prevention for older people, nor the proven preventive effects of exercise programs.
One author of the study is Professor Heike Bischoff-Ferrari.
The study is published in JAMA.
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