We’ve all heard of Omega-3 – the fat of the gods! (I just coined that, but seriously – it is given somewhat “godly” status among the healthy fats out there). Then some of us may be familiar with Omega-6, and even the savviest of “Omega-buffs” will know of the illusive Omega-9… But Omega-7? Where did this mysterious, “James-Bond-of-Fats” come from? And like ‘War’ – what is it good for? Let’s go undercover and find out…
Okay, so 007 and 70’s music puns to one side, I’m going to start off with sharing with you [what I believe to be] the best source of Omega-7, then discuss what its benefits are. In my humble opinion – the BEST source – and what I have readily available in my pantry at home is: Macadamia Nuts.
Now, by all due technicality, they are not the “number one” source – that accolade goes to Sea Buckthorn Berries… However, the latter are not widely available (they grow in the Himalayas, and are not very widely exported). Although you can find herbal extracts in many shops (usually their oil will have been extracted into consumable capsules), the fact is, macadamia nuts can be found virtually anywhere. They’re not so scarce that you have to go to great lengths to obtain them.
‘… it’s not just nature that benefits from more responsible purchasing habits, but your health too!’
I’m willing to bet that many of you already consume and/or love macadamia nuts (?) Personally, I am a huge fan of almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and macadamias; and while the others are all very rich in Omega-3s and 6s [in particular], macadamias are the outliers of the bunch containing roughly 3g of omega-7 per [1oz] serving.
So, let’s get technical for a moment; what is Omega-7 exactly? Well, where we have Omega-3s known as Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), for example, Omega-7s are also know as Palmitoleic Acid. Caution: Do NOT confuse this with Palmitic Acid! These two are like polar opposites to each other. See, Palmitoleic Acid is a monounsaturated fat, which is very healthy for you; whereas Palmitic Acid – more commonly known as Palm Oil – is a saturated fat, and is actually one of the most inflammatory fatty acids you can consume – aggravating conditions such as Type II Diabetes, Heart Disease, and possibly even decline in cognitive function.
Side note: you’ll notice that palm oil is – unfortunately – used in a variety of popular food products (one of the worst offenders being peanut butter). Apart from the ethical argument to be made from the destruction of vast swaths of African oil palm [trees], it might be worth heeding the caution in the last paragraph as an extra reason to try and find products that do NOT contain palm oil; it’s not just nature that benefits from more responsible purchasing habits, but your health too!
‘Avocados and olive oil are also good sources…’
Back on track though… Palmitoleic Acid, on the other hand, has antioxidative effects within the body, and it can help everything from regulating insulin levels to reducing cholesterol, and even promote growth of healthy cells in the hair and skin. The last two are reasons why some companies have started to use palmitoleic acid in their hair and skin formulas.
While you can buy products that contain Omega-7 – either as topical solutions, or orally ingested capsules – I always say that the best way to obtain nutrients is through the diet! Nice thing is that you only need an ounce of macadamias to get a decent amount in you that will start to benefit your body. Avocados and olive oil are also good sources, so in case you’re allergic to nuts – fear not, there are alternative solutions for you!
I believe that seeking out a variety of sources is the best approach to including Omega-7 in your day-to-day nourishment, so definitely consider using olive oil (organic, cold pressed if you can) with your food; and hey, who doesn’t love a bit of avocado, right? Egg yolk and certain cheeses (parmesan and blue cheese, in particular) are other foods that you will find contain more modest amounts of “O-7”, so you can mix it up with plenty of options to choose from.
Now, you’ll often hear me use the term “Yin and Yang” in these posts – especially when it comes to two things: hormones, and nutrients… so again, if we track back to Palmitoleic Acids’ dark sibling – Palmitic Acid – it is important to point out that where you find one, you typically find the other (if in somewhat far smaller quantities). Ironically, this is a bigger issue when it comes to macadamia nuts than avocados, eggs, etc. But it is also relative too – considering how the macadamias contain several times more Palmitoleic Acid than those other sources, it only stands to reason that the quantity of Palmitic Acid would also be greater.
‘… two of its potential benefits… are: improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced lipogenesis.’
This just goes to further reinforce the point of getting your Omega-7 from as many different sources as you can – thus mitigating the effects of consuming too much Palmitic Acid. Now, I just want to clarify that it is not the fact that Palmitic Acid is a saturated fat that is the issue; saturated fats often get a bad rap, but they are actually essential to so many physiological functions in the body – hence why there is, in fact, a Daily Recommended Intake for them (and not just a warning to consume none at all). It is the specific properties/effects of Palmitic Acid (as listed earlier) that cause it to stand out as a proverbial “Billy the Kid” among other saturated fats.
Another thing to consider is that there are other forms of Omega-7, but Palmitoleic Acid is the one you will a) hear/read about the most (if you go and peruse other articles on the subject), and b) it is the more abundantly found form of “O-7” out there.
The last thing I want to touch on here are two of its potential benefits that could be of more interest to you/us than the others that I’ve mentioned thus far. Those are: improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced lipogenesis.
Research has shown that consumption of foods rich in Omega-7 can lead to better sensitivity to insulin through the activation of more glucose transporters in the cell membrane, as well as enhanced signalling of insulin itself, which could be useful for people with Type II Diabetes. Also, studies performed on mice showed that fat formation (lipogenesis) was greatly affected when they were fed palmitoleic acid, resulting in general fat reduction, which could have awesome implications regarding fat loss if future research were to conclude that its effects are well replicated in human studies also.
So, to recap: macadamia nuts are one of the best sources of Omega-7, but you can also find it in other high-fat foods (like avocados and eggs); anything up to 3 grams per day is more than enough to reap the benefits, which you can get from just an ounce of macadamias. And the main benefits range from its antioxidative properties, nourishment of hair and skin, and possible advantages for fat loss and insulin sensitivity.
I believe it’s important to always be learning, and to discover something new every day (if possible), so I hope that today’s CXP Nutrition post has helped you achieve that. And if my opening paragraph peaked your curiosity about the other Omega fatty acids – don’t worry, I’ll be doing a post dedicated to them very soon!
Remember: eat healthy, and eat smart!
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO