Many people have heard of the benefits of Omega-3 fats before. Others may also know about Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids. But there’ s another, lesser known fat out there: Omega-7. Newer research has shed some light on this fatty acid.
Omega-7 is one of several unsaturated fatty acids (aka unsaturated fat). More specifically, it is a monounsaturated fat, meaning that it has only one double bond (polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond). The first (and only) double bond occurs at the 7th carbon, hence the name, Omega-7.
There are several different kinds of Omega-7 fats. Palmitoleic acid (9-Hexadecenoic acid) is one of the two most commonly found Omega-7 fats. It is present in all human tissues, but mainly found in our liver. Our body actually synthesizes (makes) palmitoleic acid from palmitic acid (found in meat and dairy products). In nature, palmitoleic acid is found in macadamia nut oil and sea buckthorn oil, which comes from the sea buckthorn fruit. Whereas palmitic acid has shown to be pro-inflammatory in the past, it’s believed that the conversation into palmitoleic acid may help improve insulin resistance and fight against inflammation. Studies using rats have shown that palmitoleic acid may help promote satiety.
Vaccenic Acid (11-Octadecenoic acid) is the other commonly found Omega-7 fat. It’s actually one of the few naturally occurring trans fats, which is found in minimal amounts in dairy products and even human breast milk. (Naturally occurring trans-fatty acids do not appear to have the same health detriments as the human-made kind, although that is still under review.) In mammals, vaccenic acid is actually converted into conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which may help reduce risk of certain types of cancer and decrease body fat.
It’s a little too soon to start recommending that everyone take Omega-7 through supplements. As with other nutrients, aim to get them by eating healthy food first.