Omega-7 fatty acids are little known. But one member of this class of fatty acids… palmitoleic acid … is said to reverse metabolic syndrome, lower your risk of obesity and help prevent heart disease. Here’s a brief overview.
We have all heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are so essential to our wellbeing.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for normal metabolism and for fighting inflammation, while omega-6s help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism and maintain the reproductive system.
There is also another class of fatty acids … omega-7s … which have unique health-giving powers of their own.
These unsaturated fatty acids have long been known in academic circles but appear to be mostly ignored by medical doctors and professional nutritionists. This, however, is about to change.
The two most common omega-7 fatty acids in nature are palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid.
The reputation of palmitoleic acid as a potential treatment for metabolic syndrome and other medical conditions is building steadily amongst health scientists.
Just a small amount of palmitoleic acid gives your body the ability to improve its response to insulin, resist the formation of new fat cells and use energy more efficiently.
In a study in 2011, palmitoleic acid was administered to mice that had genetic type 2 diabetes. This resulted in the mice having less insulin resistance and lower blood glucose, as well as fewer triglycerides with fewer fatty deposits in their liver … ie their symptoms of diabetes were reversed.
Ghrelin is the so-called hunger hormone. It is produced by ghrelinergic cells in the gastrointestinal tract. When your stomach is empty, ghrelin is secreted, causing a feeling of hunger. When your stomach is stretched, secretion stops and you feel satiated.
A study on mice in 2012 showed that palmitoleic acid inhibits the secretion of ghrelin. Thus it should be effective in lowering the feeling of hunger, enabling you to eat less without a sense of sacrifice.
A further study in 2013 on male rats showed that the administration of palmitoleic acid induces the release of appetite-related hormones which creates a feeling satiety
Thus omega-7 palmitoleic acid should be able to quieten your appetite so that you eat less, which will lower your risk of obesity and help you lose weight.
In the last three or four years there have been many other experiments on the effects of administering palmitoleic acid. In sum, omega-7 palmitoleic fatty acid:
- improves insulin resistance and thus lowers blood glucose levels
- reduces the appetite and thus helps fight obesity
- limits the production and accumulation of new fat cells which helps in reducing weight
- lowers bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosts good cholesterol (HDL), thus reducing the risk of heart disease
- eases the inflammation that drives metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of disorders … diabetes (high blood glucose levels), hypertension (high blood pressure), abnormal cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist.
You have metabolic syndrome if you have any three of these medical conditions.
As a diabetic, there is an 85% chance that you have metabolic syndrome, ie high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels along with problems with your blood sugar levels.
A potential treatment for metabolic syndrome can only be welcomed by type 2 diabetics everywhere.
Sources of omega-7s
There are many ways in which you can get palmitoleic acid and other omega-7s in your diet.
The richest sources are probably macadamia nut oil and sea buckthorn.
Macadamia nut oil is expressed from the nut meat of the macadamia tree. The tree is a native of Australia but is cultivated in many different parts of the world. It is full of various fatty acids.
Sea buckthorn is a shrub with golden orange berries, rich in fatty acids, that grows in many parts of the world. Its fruit is edible and nutritious. However it has a sour taste and the juice needs to be mixed with apple or grape juice to soften its astringency.
Both macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn are fairly widely available. The problem is that both these sources of omega-7 contain palmitic acid, a thick sticky palm oil.
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation) there is convincing evidence that consumption of palmitic acid increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Rats fed a diet of 20% palmitic acid and 80% carbohydrate for extended periods showed alterations in the control their central nervous system had over the secretion of insulin. This diet also interfered with their bodies’ natural appetite-suppressing signals.
Thus palmitic acid tends to neutralise many of the benefits of omega-7 fatty acids.
The best way to get omega-7 is to take a supplement of purified palmitoleic acid (if you can find one).
Make sure, however, that the supplement contains about 50% palmitoleic acid and that the level of palmitic acid is only 1%.