Just when you think you’ve got the omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids straight, there’s another player in town named omega-7 fatty acid. Over the past decade, dietitians and other health professionals have been recommending to get enough dietary marine and plant omega-3 fatty acids; helping the consumer differentiate omega-6s fatty acids including the anti-inflammatory gamma linoleic acid (GLA) found in hemp and recognizing the positive relationship the omega-9s (monounsaturated fats) found in olive and canola oils have with heart health. What should we be saying about the omega-7s? Let’s wait for more human research…
Who are these Omega-7 Fatty Acids?
Omega-7 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) primarily found in the form of palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid. Palmitoleic acid is present in fat tissues with high concentrations in the liver (1). It is found in high concentration in macadamia nuts and oil. Now to add another variable into the fat equation vaccenic acid is a naturally occurring trans-fatty acid (different from industrial trans-fats we should eliminate from our diet) found in primarily dairy products such as milk, butter and yogurt. Cis-vaccenic acid, is another form and is found in sea buckthorn oil (2).
What are the (not conclusive) benefits of Omega-7s?
To date there is little consistency in omega-7 research in human health. Conflicting is the best way to describe it. Within a large study in four US communities, it was discovered that whole-fat dairy consumption was significantly linked to higher trans-palmitoleate (omega-7) levels. These levels were related to lower metabolic risk, reduced inflammation, triglyceride levels and adiposity, as well as higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels in study participants (3). This study supports that circulating omega-7 through dairy consumption improves cardiovascular health and reduces diabetes incidence.
However, in a study conducted in a middle-aged Chinese population, adverse effects were found with circulating palmitoleic acid (omega-7) levels. In fact, it was discovered that high levels were associated with adverse effects causing inflammation and ultimately, an increased risk of metabolic syndrome (4).
Recent research, within animal models, demonstrates a link between omega-7 supplementation and satiety (5). As omega-7 fatty acids are found in smaller amounts in other animal, fish, and vegetable oils, including these supplements into a daily plan may be feasible when considering the positive holistic effects of other fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids on human health. This is a promising area for the dietary supplement market however human applications have yet to be fully explored and concluded.
More research for Omega-7 Fatty Acids
The two most common dietary sources with the highest sources of omega-7 are macadamia nuts and oil, along with sea buckthorn oil. The lack of human intervention studies using sea buckthorn oil or macadamia oil makes it difficult to conclusively recommend a daily dosage and treatment. Within the food matrix, consuming dairy sources has shown to give therapeutic results; however, it is undetermined due to the research conducted in animal models and the inconsistent results in human trials. More human clinical trials are necessary for this new player, omega-7 fatty acids.
- Knothe G. Biodiesel derived from a model oil enriched in palmitoleic acid, macadamia nut oil. Energy & Fuels. 2010;24(3):2098-103.
- Erkkola R, & Yang B. Sea buckthorn oils: Towards healthy mucous membranes. AGRO FOOD INDUSTRY HI TECH. 2003;14(3):53-9.
- Mozaffarian D et al. Trans-palmitoleic acid, metabolic risk factors, and new-onset diabetes in US adults: A cohort study. Annals of internal medicine. 2010;153(12):790-9.
- Zong G et al. Associations of erythrocyte palmitoleic acid with adipokines, inflammatory markers, and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged and older Chinese. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;96(5):970-6.
- Yang ZH, Takeo J, Katayama M. Oral administration of omega-7 palmitoleic acid induces satiety and the release of appetite-related hormones in male rats. Appetite. 2013;67:1-7.