We have all heard about Omega fats- mainly Omega-3s - which scientists praise for their health benefits. In fact, these fats have shown protective effects against a myriad of conditions from cardiovascular disease to cancer. But what about Omega-7? What is the difference between the Omegas and why are they important? Let’s find out what Omega-7 is and how we can benefit from its nutritional properties!November 16, 2022 6:10 pm March 01, 2022 5:05 pm
Fats are essential to human health
Firstly, let’s start by defining fats. Until recently, people thought that avoiding fats in the diet was a good thing! However, it turns out that this is simply not true. Thankfully, the scientific community has helped to change the reputation of fats, mainly through their classification.
In fact, not all fats are created equal. Very broadly, fats are classified into two main categories: saturated and unsaturated. Overall, the general consensus is that we should be including more unsaturated “good” fats into our diets and limiting the amounts of saturated “bad” fats.
Fats vs Oils
Lipids is the overarching term to describe a certain type of molecule that is not soluble in water. If you think about oil and water, they don’t mix!
Within the family of lipids, we can distinguish between fats and oils. In fact, fats are substances that are normally solid at room temperature, for instance butter or lard. On the other hand, oils are generally liquid at room temperature and are often of vegetable origin, for example olive oil, walnut oil and almond oil, just to name a few.
Moreover, lipids are the most significant energy reserve in the human body. In fact, our body turns to our fat reserves as a last resort when all other energy has been consumed (i.e. carbohydrates).
Fats are essential for our bodies to absorb fat-soluble vitamins which include vitamins A, D, E and K. In addition, fats are involved in a number of other functions throughout the body, from maintaining body temperature to protecting our organs. Therefore it’s clear that as humans we need fats to survive and thrive!
What are Omegas?
Most of us have heard about Omega-3 fats and how they are good for us, right? But what exactly are “Omegas”? First of all, the term “Omega” comes from the Greek alphabet, in fact it is the 24th letter of the alphabet, written as “Ω” (capitalised) and “ω” (lowercase).
You may come across Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 written as ω-3, ω-6 and ω-9. Omega fats are types of fats that we need to consume in our diet because they play important roles in our health. In fact, they are classified as “polyunsaturated fats”. This simply refers to their chemical structure which is different for example from “saturated fats”.
Omega-3s are considered “essential” fats. This means that our body cannot produce them. Therefore we must consume them in our diet. For instance, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds contain essential Omega-3 fats.
Moreover, Omega-3 fats have been under the spotlight for a long time, and for good reason! These fats are an important part of cell membranes in our body. They contribute to producing hormones that control inflammation and blood clotting. Moreover, they are also tightly linked to gene regulation. Furthermore, Omega-3 fats are associated with the prevention of heart disease and have protective effects on lupus, eczema, cancer and other pathologies.(1)
There are three main types of Omega-3s: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Fish is the main source of EPA and DHA, therefore they are sometimes referred to as “marine Omega-3s”. On the other hand, plant foods are the main sources of ALA. In fact, ALA is the most commonly consumed Omega-3 in Western diets. Our body uses ALA as an energy source and only minimally converts it into EPA and DHA.
Similarly to Omega-3s, Omega-6 fats are also polyunsaturated and “essential”. Therefore our body cannot produce these fats and we must get them from our diet. In fact, most people consume Omega-6 through vegetable oil intake. Other sources of Omega-6 include sunflower seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.
These fats can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost HDL (good) cholesterol. They can also help to regulate blood sugar levels by boosting insulin sensitivity. However, the literature doesn’t praise Omega-6 fats like their omega-3 counterparts, and this is for reasons explained below.
The most common Omega-6 is linolenic acid. Our body converts linolenic acid into another fat called arachidonic acid (aa). However, aa is a building block for molecules involved in inflammation and blood clotting. Nonetheless, our body can also convert aa into molecules that reduce inflammation and protect against blood clots!
So the jury is out amongst scientists as to the degree of “healthfulness” of Omega-6s, however we do need to consume them in our diet! In addition, what we do know for sure is that most western diets are much higher in Omega-6s compared to Omega-3s. Therefore it’s essential to focus on getting more Omega-3s into your diet!
In contrast to Omegas 3 and 6, Omega-9 is not considered an “essential” fat. In fact, our body can produce this fat. However, consuming foods that contain Omega-9 in lieu of other fats (e.g. saturated) may have significant health benefits. For instance, olive oil contains oleic acid which is the most common Omega-9 fat as well as the most common monounsaturated fat in the diet. There is no doubt that olive oil is one of the healthiest fats for human consumption!
“Good” fats vs “Bad” fats
In very broad terms, fatty acids are lipid molecules that come in various forms. As previously mentioned, we classify them as either “saturated” or “unsaturated” fats. Interestingly, our body produces saturated fats and they are required for some functions throughout the body. However, we only need very little of them from our diet.
Moreover, another type of fat called “trans” fat comes exclusively from an industrial process called hydrogenation. These types of fats should be avoided because they do not have any health benefits.
In fact, both saturated and trans fats are linked to the increase of cholesterol levels which can lead to heart disease. Overall, the general consensus is to limit the consumption of saturated fats as much as possible and to avoid trans fats.
On the other hand, “unsaturated” fats are the “good” fats that we should be including in our diet. Unsaturated fats are either “monounsaturated” or “polyunsaturated”, this just refers to their chemical structure which differs between the two. As previously mentioned, olive oil is a major source of “monounsaturated” fat. Moreover, polyunsaturated fats are found in seed oils, nuts and fish.
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that polyunsaturated fats are extremely beneficial to human health. In fact, we know they reduce LDL ”bad” cholesterol and increase HDL “good” cholesterol, overall lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.
While we have talked about Omegas 3, 6 and 9, why isn’t Omega-7 getting as much attention? Let’s find out!
What is omega 7?
For several decades, the scientific community has focused on demonstrating the benefits of Omega fatty acids, especially Omega-3s, on brain and heart health. However, in recent years, the Omega that has received much less attention, Omega-7, is finally under the spotlight! But what exactly is Omega-7?
Firstly, it is known as palmitoleic acid and it is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid, such as oleic acid which we mentioned previously. Palmitoleic acid is present in all the tissues in our body but is especially concentrated in our liver. In fact, Omega-7 stimulates the regenerative processes in our skin and aids with wound healing.(2)
Finding food sources of Omega-7 can be challenging because it is present in very small quantities. For example, macadamia nuts, avocado, olive oil and other vegetable oils contain some Omega-7. However, the good news is that one of the richest known sources of Omega-7 is the sea buckthorn berry.
Sea buckthorn : an Omega-7 powerhouse
Sea buckthorn berry oil has a very unique nutritional profile compared to other vegetable oils. In addition to being an excellent source of Omega-7, it also contains vitamins C, A, E, B complex vitamins, flavonoids and many other bioactive substances linked to health benefits.(2)
Sea buckthorn has been used for many years in traditional medicine in both Tibetan and Chinese cultures. In fact, it is used as a tonic for wound healing, ulcers and as a topical anti-inflammatory.
Nowadays, it is the most commonly used ingredient in Omega-7 supplements. Not only does traditional medicine use it, the scientific community also praises sea buckthorn for its benefits as a source of palmitoleic acid.
If you haven’t tried it yet, our Organic Sea Buckthorn Berry Oil is an incredible source of Omega-7, made with 50kg of nutrient-rich sea buckthorn berries for every litre of oil!
The literature shows that palmitoleic acid plays a significant role in health and disease. In fact, results have shown significant improvements or preventative effects of insulin and diabetes (3), improved wound healing (4) and increased hydration of the skin and mucous membranes.(5-7)
“Sea buckthorn berry oil has a very unique nutritional profile [...] In addition to being an excellent source of Omega-7, it also contains vitamins C, A, E, B complex vitamins, flavonoids and many other bioactive substances linked to health benefits.”
Healthy skin and mucous membranes
Both oral intake and topical application of sea buckthorn oil have been linked to improved skin health. A study on patients with atopic dermatitis who consumed sea buckthorn oil orally saw an improvement in symptoms after only a few months (8). Moreover , a study in women aged 50-70 years found that sea buckthorn oil significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity and texture. Overall, oral consumption and topical use of sea buckthorn oil significantly improved the signs of skin ageing after 3 months.(5)
In addition, omega-7 may be beneficial for the health and integrity of mucous membranes. These refer to the tissues in our body which cover canals and cavities, including digestive, respiratory and urological organs.