The first-of-its-kind review analyzed more than 40 existing studies on the potential immune and metabolic effects of palmitoleic acid.
A comprehensive, first-of-its-kind review1 analyzing more than 40 existing studies on the immune and metabolic effects of palmitoleic acid suggests that it may possess anti-inflammatory, metabolic, and other health benefits. The review was recently published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
Palmitoleic acid-an omega-7 fatty acid-is a monounsaturated fatty acid that can be obtained from macadamia nuts (Macadamia integrifolia) and oil, as well as sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) oil. In addition, many fish and fish oils contain appreciable amounts of palmitoleic acid. Palmitoleic acid acts as a lipokine and modulates several metabolic processes in the body’s tissues.
In this review, researchers sought to analyze results from cell-culture, animal-model, and human studies specifically investigating the immune and metabolic effects of palmitoleic acid. The ultimate goal of the review was to determine the potential positive effects of palmitoleic acid on immune and metabolic factors related to obesity, insulin resistance, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and atherosclerosis. According to the review authors, existing research supports palmitoleic acid’s ability to enhance whole-body glucose disposal in rodents, attenuate hepatic steatosis in high-fat-fed and diabetic mice, protect pancreatic β cells from death induced by palmitic acid, improve insulin function in animals, and improve the circulating lipid profile in mice and humans.
The authors pointed out, however, that while dietary fatty acids can modulate metabolic and immune responses, the effects of palmitoleic acid in human studies remain unclear. “The beneficial effects in vitro and in animal intervention studies indicate that palmitoleic acid may well be a nonpharmacologic alternative to control some features of obesity and other common conditions,” but they concluded that additional human research is needed.
“While the human data are inconsistent and clinical work is needed, the research in cell culture and animals shows many positive effects of palmitoleic acid,” said study co-authors Gretchen Vannice, MS, RDN, head of global nutrition education for omega-3 ingredients supplier AlaskOmega (Coshocton, OH); Camila Souza, PhD, University of SãoPaulo; and Philip Calder, PhD, University of Southampton.
“This little known fatty acid is intriguing,” Vannice added, “having been shown to improve insulin function and reduce inflammation and fatty liver in animals. We are excited to contribute to the body of research on palmitoleic acid.”