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Two popular supplements taken for inflammation probably do not help

Two popular supplements, taken for their supposed effect on systemic inflammation, may not be as effective as hoped by consumers. Neither omega-3 fatty acids – commonly marketed as fish oil – nor vitamin D in most cases reduce inflammation in the body, a Brigham and Women's Hospital study shows. In fact, there was some evidence that taking any of these supplements could increase systemic inflammation.

Inflammation of the system paves the way for a huge number of diseases, including autoimmune conditions, cancer, and more. Reducing systemic inflammation is a popular endeavor among today's health-conscious public; many diets and supplements boast as ways to cool down this inflammation of the body, promote health and prevent chronic diseases.

Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids are often advertised as two supplements that can help reduce systemic inflammation, but a new double-blind and placebo-controlled randomized trial found no evidence that either product reduced biomarkers which show inflammation of the body. Levels were measured early in the process and one year later.

Among the biomarkers measured is interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine that hints at the presence of systemic inflammation. The researchers found that participants assigned to take Vitamin D had an 8.2 percent increase in this biomarker, suggesting that it worsens inflammation.

However, a biomarker called hs-CRP decreased in participants taking omega-3 fatty acids … but only if their diets were low in fish before the study began. Findings show that taking fish oil supplements can have some degree of effectiveness in reducing systemic inflammation in people who do not eat fish frequently.

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