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Two-thirds of middle-aged German women are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, study finds

Published on

20 March 2017

By Rob Winwood

A nationwide, cross-sectional study called VitaMinFemin (vitamin- and mineral status among German women) was carried out in Germany to determine the status of selected nutrient levels during different stages of life. Researchers measured fatty acid levels in the red blood cell (RBC) membranes (percentage of total erythrocyte fatty acids) in 446 women aged 40 - 60 years (average age was 49 years). Researchers looked specifically at the omega-3 index (percentage of EPA and DHA of total fatty acids), to determine levels of cardio-protection, with the lowest cardiovascular risk at an omega-3 index of 8 percent or greater, and the highest risk with an omega-3 index or 4 percent or less. None of the women in the study took an omega-3 supplement.

 The average omega-3 index was 5.49 ± 1.17 percent in the total study population and 97.3 percent (n = 434) of the women showed an omega-3 index below 8 percent.  The majority of the study population had an omega-3 index between 4 and 6 percent (62.8 percent, n = 280), while 9.0 percent (n = 40) of the women had an omega 3 index of 4 percent or less.

The results indicated that omega-3 index is affected by age and smoking with slightly higher values in women 50 years (p = 0.032) of age or older and non-smokers (p = 0.002), which is in line with several other studies.

These results cannot be considered surprising as a German nutrition report from 2012 demonstrated that most German women have a low intake of EPA and DHA – less than 200 mg per day. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends adults consume 250mg per day of DHA and EPA for cardiovascular health.


  1. Gellert S, Schuchardt JP & Hahn A; “Long chain fatty acid status in middle aged women”;  PLEFA January 2017; htttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2017.01.009
  2. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernhrung e.V. (Ed.) 12 Ernährungsbericht (12, Nutrition Report), DGE Medien Service, Bonn 2012, pp59.

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