Meet the “newest” good-for-you fat: omega-7
The buzz about omega-7 has been getting louder and louder, especially as an inside-out enhancer of skin, hair, and nails. But there’s more to the story. Omega-7 is anti-inflammatory, improves cholesterol, protects the heart, may help to control weight and reduce risk for diabetes, and in some forms, helps to relieve dry, irritated eyes.
Sea Buckthorn: The Top Source of Omega-7 Fats
“This ancient plant with its powerful and healing synergies has much to contribute to this planet and its inhabitants,” concludes a review of sea buckthorn studies by Canadian and Indian researchers, published in the journal Food Research International. Sea buckthorn grows in bushes with very long roots, which help to protect land against erosion, and in addition to being the richest plant source of omega-7, the berries are among the most nutritionally dense foods on earth.
Other nutrients in sea buckthorn include vitamins A, B1, B2, folic acid, C, tocopherols (a variety of vitamin E forms), and K; different types of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds; and omega-3 and other beneficial fats. The plant grows in Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and its exact nutritional composition varies somewhat, depending on the region and how the berries are harvested and processed.
Used in Asia for centuries, this superfruit has numerous benefits that are just being uncovered by science. Some highlights:
- In a Finnish study of 80 overweight women, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dried sea buckthorn berries reduced triglycerides and harmful forms of cholesterol, and sea buckthorn oil produced by a “supercritical” extraction process (i.e., without chemicals) reduced harmful cholesterol. The beneficial oil in the study was a proprietary form called SBA 24, which is available in supplements.
- A study of 100 people, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that taking SBA24 sea buckthorn oil during the fall and winter months reduced dry eye symptoms, including redness and burning.
- In a study of 10 healthy men, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, crushed sea buckthorn berries, with or without the fat, reduced peaks in blood sugar and insulin after a meal, which helps to prevent diabetes.
Palmitoleic acid is a purified and concentrated form of one specific omega-7. Animal studies have shown that palmitoleic acid enhances heart health and insulin function, which helps to prevent type 2 diabetes. It also seems to trigger release of a hormone that reduces appetite and body weight.
Initial human studies, which haven't yet been published, have found that palmitoleic acid helps enhance insulin function, lower unhealthy triglycerides, reduce harmful LDL cholesterol, and raise beneficial HDL cholesterol. Together, these factors play a key role in preventing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Supplements of concentrated palmitoleic acid, generally described as “purified omega-7,” do not contain another type of fat found in sea buckthorn oil: palmitic acid, which some experts believe has a negative effect on heart health. In addition, purified omega-7 would not include the combination of all the other nutrients found naturally in sea buckthorn.
Traditional Uses of Sea Buckthorn
The richest plant source of omega-7, sea buckthorn is an ancient remedy in Indian, Chinese, and Tibetan medicine. According to a review of research published in the journal Food Research International, the berry’s juice and oil have been used orally and topically for a variety of ailments, including:
- Canker Sores
- Demodex (a type of parasitic mite)
- Digestive disorders
- Eye Disorders
- Eyelid Injuries
- Liver diseases
- Metabolic disorders
- Peptic Ulcers
- Stomach Ulcers
Omega-7 supplements may come from sea buckthorn seeds and/or pulp (also called “fruit”), fish, or botanical extracts. Labels may also list palmitoleic acid, or “purified” omega-7. Both types can be found in capsules, and sea buckthorn is also available as a juice, as well as in topical beauty products for skin, hair, and men’s shaving creams. Sibu Beauty, a company specializing in sea buckthorn supplements and skin care products, also makes Omega-7 Chocolates; each piece of Belgian liquor chocolate contains 250 mg of sea buckthorn oil.
In supplements, proprietary ingredients (usually listed under “Supplement Facts”) include SBA24 sea buckthorn oil, a specific formulation of oil from sea buckthorn seeds and pulp, and Provinal, a purified form of palmitoleic acid derived from anchovies. Some products specify where the berries were grown.
Extracts may be described as “supercritical,” which refers to an extraction process that uses carbon dioxide (which is harmless) rather than chemical solvents.
Better Nutrition contributing editor Vera Tweed is the former editor in chief of GreatLife magazine and the author of numerous books, including Hormone Harmony.
Omega-7 contains 224 mg of palmitoleic acid derived from fish oil. The suggested dosage is 3 capsules daily.
Purified Omega-7, with Provinal, is part of a new line of healthy fat products formulated by dietitian Karlene Karst.
Sea Berry Essence features 100% wild-harvested sea buckthorn seed oil from Tibet. One softgel daily supplies a range of nutrients.
Sea buckthorn berries, shown here, are the richest plant source of omega-7 fats, and among the most nutritionally dense foods on earth.