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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
The researchers from the National Institutes of Health note that there is a lot to learn about palmitoleic acid’s impact on atherosclerosis.
Palmitoleic acid is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid naturally present in fatty fish, fish oil, and some nuts and seeds, including macadamia nut and sea buckthorn. There has been some scientific research pointing to palmitoleic acid’s potential benefits for cardiovascular disease risk factors, but there is still a lot to discover. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health recently published a study1 exploring palmitoleic acid’s effects on atherosclerosis in LDL-receptor knockout mice fed a high-fat Western diet.
In their study, alongside a Western diet, the researchers administered the mice either 1) palmitoleic acid, 2) oleate-rich olive oil (which is another monounsaturated fatty acid), or 3) placebo. Organic Technologies (Coshocton, OH) supplied both the palmitoleic acid (its AlaskOmega Omega-7 700 ingredient), as well as the olive oil.
At the end of a 12-week feeding period, the researchers found significant reductions in the palmitoleic acid group, especially in the areas of atherosclerotic lesions (approximately 45% reduction) and circulating triglycerides (approximately 30% reduction), compared to the olive oil and control groups. They noted that “our data showed that [the] palmitoleate-rich diet reduced atherosclerotic plaque areas and hyperlipidemia in LDLR-KO mice, although such effect was not observed in mice fed oleate-rich diet.” They also noted that mice in the palmitoleic acid group exhibited improved glucose metabolism compared to control.
The NIH researchers said that, following this study, they are beginning a clinical trial on palmitoleic acid on cardiometabolic health. “In summary, we have shown for the first time that aortic atherosclerosis plaques, as well as impaired lipid and glucose metabolism, were improved in LDLR-KO mice fed [a] Western diet supplemented with palmitoleate compared to those fed [a] Western diet or oleate-rich olive oil-supplemented diet,” they wrote. “These positive findings have led us to initiate a clinical trial comparing oleic acid to palmitoleic acid supplementation on various cardiometabolic parameters (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03372733).”