New research institute aims to advance omega-3 science

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags omega-3 premature birth cardiovascular health

Dr William Harris, renowned fatty acid researcher and co-creator of the Omega-3 Index, has founded a new research institute to help build the evidence linking higher omega-3 levels with better health outcomes.

Prior to founding the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), Dr Harris spent 12 years growing OmegaQuant Analytics. He has since stepped away from OmegaQuant to focus on FARI, which aims to expand the scientific literature on the relationships between health outcomes and circulating fatty acids levels; primarily omega-3s, but also any fatty acid that is modifiable by diet (e.g., some omega-6s, trans, DNL, or de novo lipogenesis).

The first project that will be FARI initiated will be to look into the extent to which blood omega-3 levels are better predictors of risk for cardiovascular disease than the standard cardiovascular markers like cholesterol levels, blood pressure, diabetes, smoking.

The key question, said Dr Harris, is understanding how omega-3 compare to those as risk factors, because they’re well accepted and used in medical practice around the world.

“So, if we can show that omega-3s are just as good, if not better, then the logic would be that we ought to be measuring omega-3,” ​said Dr Harris, who is also affiliated with the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.

Premature births

Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA, Dr Harris added that he has applied to the NIH for a grant to look at whether omega-3 levels in a pregnant woman—specifically red blood cell DHA levels—is related to risk for premature delivery.

“And not only look at risk for premature birth, but also because premature birth is an expensive proposition financially we want to look at total healthcare costs surrounding that birth as a function of mom’s omega-3 level,” ​he added.


FARI will accomplish its mission primarily by leveraging the power of multiple existing databases from major observational and interventional trials around the world where information on blood fatty acid levels and disease outcomes are already available, explained Dr Harris.

“There are multiple large observational studies, particularly in the United States, which are funded by the NIH. There are six or seven big trials in the US that have data sitting there and most of them have fatty acids measured in the blood at some point, and they all have different health outcomes measured, and the data just sits there unless somebody knows how to find it, pull it in, analyze it, and publish it,” ​he said.

“Our hope is that the omega-3 industry in general will recognize that more publications, more evidence linking higher omega-3 levels with better health outcomes, would strengthen the case across the board for the benefits of anybody selling omega-3 products for consumption,” ​he added.

“It’s a pretty short jump from how to move from a low omega-3 blood level to a high omega-3 level, and that’s to eat more omega-3s. So, we’re hoping that our research efforts—and I think we can work fairly efficiently, effectively and economically—will be an attractive charity for the industry to support.”

For more information about FARI, please click HERE​.


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