The intake of omega-3 fatty acids halved ­premature birth rates

Many studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between high omega-3 levels and infant health


The biomarker HS-Omega-3 Index® was developed in 2002 by Prof. Dr. Clemens von Schacky and Prof. Dr. W.S Harris.

Independent studies with top scientific partners have found that high levels of omega-3, for example, improve cerebral blood flow, reduce the risk of dementia, or improve performance in cardiac insufficiency. The fact that intake of omega-3 fatty acids halved premature birth rates was demonstrated in 9 studies. The company Omegametrix at the IZB is the only laboratory in Europe that can analyze omega-3 fatty acids in erythrocytes and the entire fatty acid spectrum using a specially developed procedure, the HS-Omega-3 Index®. The biomarker HS-Omega-3 Index® was developed in 2002 by Prof. Dr. Clemens von Schacky, Managing Director of Omegametrix and Head of Preventive Cardiology at the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, and Prof. Dr. W.S Harris, Sanford University, USA. Susanne Simon interviewed Prof. von Schacky about the latest study results for the “IZB in Dialog”.

In dialog: Why is the HS-Omega-3 Index® so important for people‘s health?
Prof. von Schacky: With an HS-Omega-3 Index® in our proposed target range of 8 to 11 percent, people live longer, heart disease is less common, and brain structure and function are better than with a lower HS-Omega-3 Index®. Further findings are continually being added. The best universities around the world work with us in the context of studies. So far 250 publications have resulted from these collaborations; over 50 research projects are in progress.

In dialog: Why is the analysis of omega-3 fatty acids still so infrequent in everyday medical life?
Prof. von Schacky: In the US, the HS-Omega-3 Index® has already entered routine clinical procedure. We are convinced that a rethink will also follow in Europe. We are already working for the major prevention centers.

In dialog: Why is it so important to consume omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy?
Prof. von Schacky: The uterus will remove all of the nutrients that are important for the embryo from the body of the mother to ensure that, for example, the brain grows. This leads to a very low omega-3 level in the blood in the mother. But only 15 percent of expectant mothers supplement their diet with omega-3 fatty acids. This also applies to breastfeeding mothers. Too many have a shortage.

In dialog: What further impact can omega-3 levels have on the child and mother?
Prof. von Schacky: An important finding is that child death can be reduced by 50 percent if one consumes adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Interestingly, low levels of omega-3 could also be responsible for postnatal depression. The phenomenon of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers becoming more forgetful is related to this correlation. These results came from the study we conducted with the University of Hannover in 2016.


Prof. Dr. Clemens von Schacky,
CEO, Omegametrix GmbH

In dialog: Are doctors aware of this need?
Prof. von Schacky: No, this need is not sufficiently communicated in gynecological practices. The German Nutrition Society recommends that pregnant women take 200 mg daily. But this dose is usually insufficient. It should also be noted that the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids from food is very different in everyone.

In dialog: You have published that in terms of heart attack, analysis of omega-3 levels is more important than analysis of cholesterol levels. Why?
Prof. von Schacky: Together with scientists from Harvard University and Framingham, USA, we gained new insights in 2018. The omega-3 level better predicts cardiovascular risk (heart attack, sudden cardiac death) than the cholesterol level. One could summarize this as follows: For the mid-80th year of life there are three options: either you are dead, have dementia, or have good omega-3 levels, as we have demonstrated in a study with the Helmholtz Foundation, the Technical University of Munich and the universities of Giessen and Marburg. Another study by the Universities of Los Angeles and San Francisco in cooperation with the Amen Hospital showed that cerebral blood flow and brain performance is better with a higher HS-Omega-3 Index®.

In dialog: Why does a low omega-3 level lead to increased blood pressure?
Prof. von Schacky: Fifty intervention studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure. A high omega-3 level also reduces vascular stiffness and improves the function of the middle and small vessels. Together with the universities in Zurich, Basel and Baden in Switzerland, we were able to show that in healthy people low omega-3 levels are associated with high blood pressure. That is why it is so important to integrate this into blood pressure measurements. Also at the same universities it was found that one lives longer with a high omega-3 level after a thromboembolism, and that despite coagulation inhibition there is no increased risk of bleeding.

In dialog: You have also measured our Olympic winter sports athletes. What effect did that have?
Prof. von Schacky: The entire team had poor omega-3 levels. Many are now taking omega-3 products. This led to better muscle and brain performance. Also inflammatory reactions after physical exertion were reduced. Germany performed outstandingly at the Olympic Winter Games in 2018. They could only be beaten by the Norwegian athletes, who pay even more attention to good omega-3 levels. Norfolk State University, California State University, Long Beach, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln were able to analyze that female athletes are less anxious and mentally “tougher” when taking omega-3 fatty acids.

In dialog: What are your goals for the next five years?
Prof. von Schacky: We will continue to generate first-class data in collaboration with top-class research groups. But since we believe that there are already enough reasons to have an optimal HS-Omega-3 Index®, we need even more to convince physicians and their patients to use our test more often – e.g. every pregnant woman before, during and after pregnancy.