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Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus
1985 …2022

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

My group is focusing on impact on health of dietary intake in pregnancy and during the adolescent years. A central research resource is the Danish National Birth Cohort, where we are following a cohort of 90,000 born during 1996-2003. My group has, together with associated groups, published >200 peer reviewed articles relating pregnancy diet to various health outcomes. A special line has been to study whether marine n-3 fatty acids can delay spontaneous delivery and prevent preterm birth. I and colleagues, in a paper in the Lancet, initially suggested this hypothesis, which in 2018 was corroborated by an extensive Cochrane review of randomized trials. Experiences from our studies, including our Chinese trial published in 2019 (see list of Selected publications), collectively suggest that the delaying effect of marine n-3 fatty acids on timing of spontaneous delivery is fast but of short duration. In our data, there is also evidence to suggest that the relationship is non-linear, with a low “saturation point”; and that small doses may have substantial effects in women who are below the saturation point.

Personal profile

Dr. S.F. Olsen is part of the team that established the Danish National Birth Cohort. He is member of its Management Group and he has been responsible for the introduction, implementation, and conduct of the maternal dietary component of DNBC. During 1996 to 2003 seventy thousands of the pregnant women responded to a comprehensive general dietary questionnaire, generating the first large database worldwide of its kind (Olsen SF et al. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2007).

Dr. Olsen and colleagues have during the last few years established intensive follow-up studies of birth cohorts and pregnancy trials stemming from the early studies that he and his colleagues did. 

Dr. Olsen is involved in several international collaborative efforts. In a European context, he was partner in the Framework Programme (FP) 5 project NUTRIX and Theme Leader in the FP6 Integrated Project EARNEST, both of which focused on effects of early nutrition on health; and he is partner in the recently established Early Nutrition Project, a Large-Scale Integrated Project also funded by the European Commission, under FP7. He is Danish co-PI in the NIH/NICHD initiated ‘Diabetes and Women’s Health Study’ which is seeking to identify determinants (medical, lifestyle, genetic and their interactions) for the progression from gestational diabetes to type 2 diabetes; this US-Danish collaborative study is based on long term follow up of approximately 5,000 women with diabetes in pregnancy in the two major cohorts, the US Nurses’ Health Study II and the Danish National Birth Cohort. Furthermore, together with Dr ZHOU Weijin he initiated a randomized controlled trial with fish oil supplementation that is presently being undertaken in China.

Dr. Olsen has served on several expert committees. While he was a member of the Danish Nutrition Council, he chaired the Council’s expert panel that in 2005 published an extensive report reviewing the scientific evidence underpinning dietary advice in relation to pregnancy. As member of the expert group on ‘Pregnancy and Lactation’ (PAL), he is currently contributing to updating the 5th version of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (‘NNR5’) financed by The Nordic Council of Ministers.

Dr. Olsen has had research employments at Academia Faeroensis, Aarhus University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Danish Epidemiology Science Centre, University of Copenhagen, and Statens Serum Institut. He established the Maternal Nutrition Group at Statens Serum institut, where he is Chief Physician. During two years, from Oct 2005 to Oct 2007, he was ordinary (full) professor of epidemiology at Aarhus University. Since 1995 he has visited Department Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health many times; one of several important aims of his visits has been to seek advice in relation to effectuating the nutritional component of the Danish National Birth Cohort. He has collaborative projects on-going with researchers and doctoral students at the School, where he is a regular visitor and has been teaching at different courses; in Dec 2006 he became formally affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health as adjunct professor in nutrition.

On Jan 1, 2010, Sjurdur F. Olsen became the Leader of the Centre for Fetal Programming, which is a multidisciplinary research consortium funded for a five year period by the Danish Council for Strategic Research. The aim of the Centre is to examine and understand fetal programming of health related phenomena. The Centre is located in 12 different institutions and includes both epidemiological, animal experimental, and clinical physiological approaches.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Aarhus University

… → 1994

Master, MSc in Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

… → 1987

Master,, Københavns Universitet

… → 1984

External positions

Professor , Section of Epidemiology, Department of Public Health, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen , Copenhagen , Denmark

2019 → …

Centre Leader, Center for Fetal Programming, Division of Epidemiology, Statens Serum Institut , Copenhagen , Denmark


Chief Physician, Statens Serum Institut, Department of Epidemiology Research

2009 → …

Professor , Center for Fetal Programming, Division of Epidemiology, Statens Serum Institut , Copenhagen , Denmark

2007 → …

Adjunct Professor in Nutrition, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

2006 → …

Full (ordinary) Professor of Epidemiology, Aarhus University


Senior Scientist, Statens Serum Institut

1994 → …

Post Doc, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

… → 1993


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