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May 1, 2017

Can Omega-7 Fatty Acid Prevent Obesity?

omega-7 fatty acid
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Most of us have heard or read about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and maybe even omega-9 fatty acid, but what about omega-7 fatty acid?  First of all, omega-7 fatty acid does exist, and secondly, we are now just learning more about them. Omega-7 fatty acid is also known as palmitoleic acid.

It turns out the omega-7 fatty acids play a role in lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and …. protects against obesity. Omega-7 fatty acid protects agains fat gain a couple ways. It causes an increase in fat breakdown by increasing the release of enzymes that lead to fat burning. And, omega-7 reduce the synthesis of new fat by the body.

Anti-inflammatory Effects of Omega-7

Omega-7 are also anti-inflammatory and reduce C-reactive protein (a inflammation marker for heart disease) up to 44% based on a study conducted study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic. Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases as we discussed in Silent Inflammation and Chronic Disease. Omega-7 inhibits NF-kappaB, which is the master inflammation regulator.

In short, omega-7 fatty acid improve metabolic disturbances that lead to elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, elevated cholesterol, and fat gain. All of that reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, and cancer.

Omega-7 function as lipokines. Lipokines are signaling molecules that improve energy utilization and storage in distant cells or tissues, more or less functioning as hormone like molecules.

Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is a hormone that is secreted in response to foods containing sugar or complex carbohydrates. Insulin helps to drive sugar into the cells (where it is used for energy) and out of the blood. But, insulin is a fattening hormone. And, the more of it you make, the fatter you will become.  Even if you exercise it is difficult to burn calories from you fat stores in the presence of elevated insulin levels.

The more sensitive cells are to insulin the less insulin is required to drive sugar into the cells where it can be burned as energy. Omega-7 improves insulin sensitivity (here is one study one study showing that) – meaning there is less need by the cells for insulin. That prevents fat gain while facilitating the release of calories from fat for energy burning.

Another study showed that those with higher omega-7 levels had higher HDL or good cholesterol and lower triglycerides. Both of those are desirable outcomes as the lower the risk of heart disease.

Can omega-7 prevent obesity?

Obesity is a complex problem and it is doubtful than one compound or molecule alone can treat it. But, the now discovered link between omega-7 and blood sugar and lipid control is encouraging by possibly providing another treatment for the ever growing obesity epidemic.

How much omega-7 do you need and in what foods do you find it?  In the Cleveland Clinic study 220 mg of palmitoleic acid was used in a supplement form. Palmitoleic acid is naturally found in macadamia nuts and sea buckthorn. But, don’t go overboard eating those foods. Both of them are also high in palmitic acid which actually raises the risk of heart disease and stroke and raises LDL or bad cholesterol. In fact, those foods tend to have higher concentrations of the unhealthy palmitic acid than the healthy palmitoleic acid.

So if you want to increase your omega-7 level you should use a purified supplement form. Look for one that contains a palmitic acid concentration of 1% or less and a palmitoleic acid concentration around 50%.

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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