CHICAGO — Taking fish oil or vitamin D? Big studies give long-awaited answers on who does and does not benefit from these popular nutrients.

Fish oil taken by healthy people, at a dose found in many supplements, showed no clear ability to lower heart or cancer risks. Same for vitamin D.

But higher amounts of a purified, prescription fish oil slashed heart problems and heart-related deaths among people with high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, and other risks for heart disease.

Doctors cheered the results and said they could suggest a new treatment option for hundreds of thousands of patients like these.

Up to 10 percent of U.S. adults take fish oil. Even more take vitamin D , despite no major studies to support the many health claims made for it.

“Those who peddle it promote it as good for everything,” but in this definitive test, vitamin D “showed a big nothing,” said Dr. James Stein, a heart specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He had no role in the studies or ties to the companies involved.

Results were revealed Saturday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago and published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

These oils, also called omega-3 fatty acids, are found in salmon, tuna and certain other fish. They reduce triglycerides and inflammation and may have other effects. There are different types, including EPA and DHA.

One study tested 4 grams a day of Amarin Corp.’s prescription Vascepa, which is concentrated EPA, in more than 8,000 patients with high triglycerides and a greater risk of heart problems for various reasons. Side effects may be a concern: More people on Vascepa were hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat – 3 percent versus 2 percent of the comparison group.

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