Even if palmitoleic acid doesn't roll off your tongue, it's worth reading about. That's because this fatty acid is kinda a big deal. Yup, it seems to be the new fatty acid champion of health. Here's the skinny on this fat.
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What Is Palmitoleic Acid?
Palmitoleic (pal-mee-to-lay-ick) acid is a monounsaturated fat and among eight others that are part of the omega-7 fatty acid group. This group share a common feature—they all have a double bond (or lack of hydrogen atom, hence “mono” unsaturated) at the number seven carbon atom of the fatty acid chain[*][*]. Hence the name of the group. But unlike omega-6 and omega-3 fats, omega-7 fats are not essential fatty acids because your body can make them endogenously.
Just like other fatty acids (like caprylic acid in MCT oil), palmitoleic acid is made up of mostly carbon and hydrogen atoms. Palmitoleic acid has 16 carbon molecules in it, while caprylic acid has 10 (and lauric acid, which is represented in the figure below, has 12). When long-chain fatty acids bind with glycerol, you get long-chain triglycerides (LCTs, not MCTs). This figure will help:
In this case, three identical fatty acids (lauric acid - C12) bind with glycerol to make an MCT. But if all three fatty acids were long-chain (e.g., palmitoleic), they'd make a long-chain triglyceride. Ok, now back to our long-chain fatty acid at hand...
Palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid are the two most common omega-7s. But palmitoleic is kinda a health superstar[*]. But just because our bodies can make palmitoleic acid doesn’t mean you don’t stand to benefit from adding it to your diet.
Benefits of Palmitoleic Acid
1. Protects Your Heart
Atherosclerosis is a process in which cholesterol builds up to form plaque that blocks your blood vessels. According to studies, palmitoleic acid can decrease your chances of developing high blood pressure and atherosclerosis by reducing blood vessel swelling. Additionally, palmitoleic acid strengthens your immune system, which also decreases swelling and thus protects your heart[*][*].
2. Protects Against Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance happens when your body’s cells do not respond to insulin, a hormone that controls the levels of blood sugar by facilitating glucose utilization. Palmitoleic acid has been found to offer protection against insulin resistance[*][*]. According to various studies, omega-7 fatty acids may increase the metabolism of glucose. Individuals who are at greater risk of metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, or diabetes can benefit from taking omega-7 fatty acids.
3. Reduces Your Weight
Taking palmitoleic acid, either in supplement form or in food form, may help you feel full for longer. According to a study, palmitoleic acid reduced food consumption and encouraged the release of satiety hormones in rats[*]. Research also shows that omega-7 fatty acids may decrease total blood lipids and fat cell size and increase fat-burning[*].
According to another study, palmitoleic acid balanced insulin resistance in people prone to developing type 2 diabetes. Plus, it has been found to play a role in boosting metabolism[*].
4. Enhances Your Skin Health
Palmitoleic acid may help keep your skin, nails, and hair healthy. When the skin cells get exposed to the sun, pollution, or chemicals, they get oxidized, which cause your skin to age prematurely. Omega-7 fatty acids protect against this oxidative damage by encouraging the development of new skin cells. In addition, palmitoleic acid increases the synthesis of elastin and collagen, proteins that keep your skin young, strong, and wrinkle-free[*].
5. Reduces Inflammation and Swelling
Omega-7 fatty acids may decrease inflammation in people suffering from ulcerative colitis, a kind of inflammatory bowel disease[*]. They may also help decrease inflammation and discomfort in dry eyes[*].
Obesity or too much alcohol use can cause swelling in the internal organs, leading to fatty liver disease. Palmitoleic acid can help individuals with fatty liver disease by suppressing inflammatory cytokines and improving insulin sensitivity[*]. Cytokines play a key role in fatty liver diseases and lead to inflammation and insulin resistance[*][*].
6. Improves Cholesterol Levels
Omega-7 fats also help increase good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels and decrease bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels by balancing levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker of heart disease[*].
High LDL cholesterol levels lead to a buildup of fats in your arteries (i.e., atherosclerosis). This condition can begin to block the arteries and therefore increases your risk of suffering a stroke and heart attack. Conversely, a high HDL cholesterol level may protect against these conditions. A win-win for palmitoleic acid and cardiovascular heatlh.
Sources of Palmitoleic Acid
Palmitoleic acid is abundantly found in sea buckthorn oils, avocado, and macadamia nuts. Note: Olive oil contains palmitic acid, which the body converts to palmitoleic acid. Here are some of the sources of omega 7-fatty acids.
1. Macadamia Nut and Oil
The macadamia nut is a good source of omega-7 fatty acids. It contains 20% palmitoleic acid, 60% oleic acid, and 80% of monounsaturated fatty acids[*]. Macadamia confer some serious health benefits. It offers protection against heart disease by protecting cells from damage caused by oxidative stress.
Generally, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are much better than polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)[*].
- MUFAs are more stable than PUFAs.
- They are less likely to oxidize than PUFAs so they are better for heating and cooking. Make sure to use the right oil when cooking.
2. Sea Buckthorn Oil
Sea buckthorn berries are rich in tocopherols and palmitoleic acid. Tocopherols are a type of vitamin E that decrease swelling and protect cells against sun-induced damage[*][*]. Sea buckthorn oil, which is obtained from the seeds and fruits of the plant, can improve circulation and protect you from allergens and infections[*].
Sea buckthorn oil is an excellent source of palmitoleic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C. It helps boost collagen and enhance elastin and is often used in beauty products. Sea buckthorn oil also contains antioxidants that offer protection against cell damage.
3. Avocado Oil
Avocado oil contains palmitoleic acid along with other saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats. The oil has a high smoke point (520°F), meaning it can withstand higher temperatures than other oils (thereby resisting becoming a trans fat). Interestingly, the smoke point of avocado oil is higher than sunflower oil (440°F) and extra-virgin olive oil (320°F).
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil contains small amounts of omega-7 fats. However, even foods with small amounts of this fat are worth considering. The oil contains healthy polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, 20% palmitic acid, which converts into palmitoleic acid.
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Palmitoleic acid is a healthy fat. Research suggests that palmitoleic acid may reduce body weight since it may increase metabolism, reduce the size of fat cells, and even suppress hunger. Adding it to your diet will also support healthy skin and heart health. Omega-7 fatty acids may decrease swelling throughout your body and protect your heart and blood vessels.
Omega-7 fatty acids can be found in macadamia oil and nuts, olive oil, and sea buckthorn oil or berries. But if you want a convenient and verified source of palmitoleic acid, check out FBOMB’s lineup of premium oils.