Oleic Acid: A Complete Guide to This Omega-9 Fatty Acid

Unlike palmitoleic acid, oleic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid that you may have actually heard of. 

But like, palmitoleic acid, oleic acid has also been associated with many health benefits.

So, what is oleic acid, what does it do, and why is it good for you?

You’ll learn all of that and more in this article. 

    What Is Oleic Acid?

    Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in many healthy high-fat foods, including vegetable and animal sources. Some examples include olive oil, avocado oil, and macadamia nuts

    Omega-9 fatty acids are a family of unsaturated fats that have a carbon-carbon double bond at the omega−9 position.

    Unlike omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, omega−9 fats are not “essential fatty acids” because they can be synthesized from unsaturated fatty acids. 

    Note that this doesn’t mean that they’re not healthy or essential for good health. Essential fatty acids are any fatty acid that can be produced in the body, and hence do not need to be ingested via dietary sources[*]

    Oleic acid-rich diets, such as the Mediterranean, ketogenic, and paleo diets are

    The Health Benefits of Oleic Acid

    Oleic acid has many beneficial effects and is a healthy fat that deserves a place in your diet. Here are some of the benefits of oleic acid you should know. 

    #1: Oleic Acid Supports Cellular Health

    Oleic acid has been found to have beneficial effects in cancer research. 

    A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh found that the monounsaturated fatty acid encourages the synthesis of a cell molecule (miR-7) that supports a reduction in cancer-causing proteins from developing. 

    Oleic acid could play a role in intracellular signalling pathways that are involved in cancer cell development. 

    A Spanish study found that this monounsaturated fatty acid helps induce cell death in cancer cells[*][*].  

    #2: Oleic Acid May Enhance Brain Function

    Studies show that there is an inverse relationship between cognitive decline and the intake of healthy monounsaturated fats. 

    One study found that in older people with a Mediterranean diet, high consumption of monounsaturated fats offered protection against cognitive decline. 

    Scientists involved in the study concluded that these good fats may help treat Alzheimer’s disease[*]. 

    #3: Oleic Acid May Benefit Those with Type 2 Diabetes

    People with type 2 diabetes may benefit from adding oleic acid to their diet. 

    According to research, oleic acid has beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity.

    These beneficial effects are due to the potential anti-inflammatory properties of oleic acid and its ability to inhibit the attenuation of the insulin signaling pathway. This could potentially suggest that the intake of oleic acid can help control the amount of insulin released to increase glucose uptake from the blood[*]. 

    #4: Diets Rich in Fatty Acids Support Weight Management

    According to a pilot study, when compared to a normal lower-fat diet, a diet rich in olive oil (a source of oleic acid) led to increased weight loss in women with breast cancer. 

    In the study, about 80% of women who consumed a diet rich in olive oil (about three tablespoons of oil each day) experienced a weight loss of 5%. The diet also reduced triglycerides and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels[*]. 

    Score for ketogenic and paleo diet enthusiasts everywhere!

    #5: Oleic Acid May Support Heart Health

    Many research studies have found that olive oil (again, a source of oleic acid) may support reductions in blood pressure and enhanced cardiovascular health in subjects. 

    Olive oil contains approximately 80% oleic acid, and scientists have found that the monounsaturated acid itself is responsible for the hypotensive effect of olive oil.

    Consumption of olive oil and other foods rich in omega-9 fatty acids increases levels of oleic acid in membranes. The fatty acid alters the structure of the membrane and its physical properties and controls cell signaling, which leads to a decrease in blood pressure.

    The research concludes that consuming olive oil decreases blood pressure because of the physical properties of oleic acid[*][*][*].

    Top Oleic Acid Food Sources 

    The top oleic acid foods are usually found in quality fats such as oils. While the whole version of the food is typically a source of oleic acid as well, the oils provide a higher concentration of the omega-9 fatty acid, so you get the most benefit from those. 

    #1: Macadamia Oil

    Macadamia oil is a rich source of oleic acid and other quality fats. Its fatty acid composition makes it truly unique. 

    Macadamia oil contains about:

    • 60% oleic acid
    • 19% palmitoleic acid
    • 1-2% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

    Many studies show that macadamia oil can support improved skin appearance[*], weight loss[*], heart health[*] and insulin sensitivity[*]. And that just scratches the surface!

    #2: Olive Oil

    Olive oil is also an excellent source of oleic acid[*] and is obtained from the olive fruit. 

    Some of the fatty acids in olive oil include: 

    Consuming one or two tablespoons of olive oil daily is sufficient to get adequate amounts of oleic acid[*]. Luckily, olive oil is the perfect type of oil to cook with! 

    #3: Eggs

    Eggs are a source of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that are considered one of the highest quality animal products commonly found in the American diet.

    Oleic acid is the major fatty acid found in eggs (42-45%[*] and is found in the yolk of the egg. 

    Eggs are also an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and A, and vitamin B-6.

    Another reason to add eggs to your diet!

    #4: Cheese

    Cheese is a known source of oleic acid, as well as other beneficial fats and proteins, such as linoleic acid and others. 

    In fact, research suggests that “Grazing dairy cows produce milk with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, which are able to reduce cardiovascular diseases and have some anticancer properties[*].” 

    Choose cheese from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows that are raised ethically without any added hormones or antibiotics to score the best quality nutritional profile[*]. 

    #5: Sunflower Oil

    High oleic sunflower oil contains high amounts of oleic acid (about 80%). 

    This neutral-tasting oil has several uses including spray coating oils for dried fruits, crackers, and cereal. 

    Sunflower oil is a vegetable oil, however, and doesn’t withstand heat very well. This is not your healthiest source of oleic acid. 

    Other Food Sources

    Poultry, and other meats are also good sources of oleic acid.

    You can find this monounsaturated fatty acid in a wide range of foods, such as yeast bread, dairy desserts, salad dressing, potato chips, burgers, pizza, nuts, and grain-based desserts[*]. 

    That’s because these foods often contain high-oleic acid foods, such as cheese (pizza, burgers), milk and eggs (desserts), and oils (chips, salad dressing). 

    Instead of using these unhealthy foods as your main source of oleic acid, go straight to the source and just grab some macadamia or olive oil, cheese, eggs, or nuts. Your blood sugars and body will thank you!

    To add minimally processed, whole food, or natural sources of oleic acid to your diet, here are some tips: 

    Pack More Oleic Acid Into Your Diet

    Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid that packs some impressive health benefits.

    Eggs, meat, cheese, olive oil, and nuts are some of the good sources of oleic acid. In a nutshell (get it??), oleic acid is a healthy monounsaturated fat that deserves a place in your diet.

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