You may have heard of omega-3, a class of fatty acids found in fish and seeds that has ascended to almost mythical levels within the supplement industry – but have you heard of omega-7? As omega-3’s less popular cousin, this group of fatty acids isn’t quite as important (it’s not essential like the former is), but it does have some serious benefits that aren’t often talked about. So, let’s talk about them.
What is omega-7?
Omega-7 is found in several dietary sources, with the most abundant being sea buckthorn berries. Luckily, other sources like macadamia nuts, avocado oil, and certain fish, like salmon and anchovies, contain varying amounts of omega-7, so it isn’t too hard to get it packed into your diet.
It is a family of monounsaturated fatty acids, whereas omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated. They differ slightly from omega-3 and other omega fatty acids by the number of carbon atoms at the end of the carbon chain, with omega-7 coincidentally having seven. The most common forms of omega-7 acids are palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid, which skincare aficionados may notice are found in some moisturizers.
Unlike omega-3, though, it isn’t an essential dietary nutrient. Humans can make omega-7 endogenously (meaning our body can make it itself) without the need for supplementation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t try and get more in your diet.
What does the body use omega-7 for?
Omega-7 makes up part of the structure of our skin and mucous membranes, and as such supplementing it has been associated with some health benefits. Maintaining healthy omega-7 levels is thought to help lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammatory conditions associated with mucous membranes found in our digestive tracts, eyes, and genitalia.
One current use of omega-7 supplements is for dry eyes, which works to reduce inflammation in the tear gland and to improve tear production.
Some in vitro studies have demonstrated that palmitoleic acid may help a condition associated with diabetes in which pancreatic cells deplete, as a result of apoptosis. These fatty acids are thought to protect the cells from death, thereby improving the symptoms of diabetes for some, but this is yet to be confirmed in human trials.
However, while some of the research for omega-7 is promising, other studies have shown limited to no beneficial health effects from supplements. One study found that omega-7 did not lower inflammation in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, while another review found a limited effect of sea buckthorn oil on human health.
It is therefore unclear whether omega-7 has benefits as a supplement or as a treatment for certain diseases, but maintaining a healthy level in the diet does appear to be associated with better markers of cardiovascular health, so continuing to have a diverse diet may once again be the best way to enjoy its effects.
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The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.