Why You Need Omega-7 In Your Diet
And other burning nutrition questions du jour answered by revered nutrition expert Dr. Jonny Bowden.
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Recently, I’ve been hearing buzz about “omega-7s.” I’ve heard of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9, but what the heck is omega-7?
Omega-7 is a fatty acid known as palmitoleic acid. It’s got a lot of potential health benefits, though the research is nowhere near as extensive as the research on, say, omega-3s. Nonetheless, it’s becoming a popular supplement.
Palmitoleic acid began to get some serious attention when studies at Harvard University showed that people with the highest circulating levels of the fatty acid had an amazing 60% lower incidence of diabetes compared with those who had the lowest levels. People with higher levels of omega-7 also had a lower body mass index (BMI), smaller waist circumference, lower triglycerides and lower inflammation. And a study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic and Xyrion Medical Institute showed that 210 milligrams per day of omega-7 reduced C-reactive protein (CRP) levels – an important measure of overall inflammation – by an impressive 44%.
The omega-7 sold today as a supplement comes from either fish such as salmon or from a plant known as sea buckthorn. One excellent, widely available brand is Barlean’s Heart Remedy.
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Someone told me that citrus bergamot is a really great supplement for heart health. I’d never heard of it. What does it do?
A number of studies show that citrus bergamot supplements can lower cholesterol. But in my opinion, lowering cholesterol is the least important thing citrus bergamot does.
Citrus bergamot is an extract from bergamot, a kind of orange that grows mainly in the Calabria region of Italy. The fruit itself is slightly bitter and sour, but there are compounds in it that have been found to have some important health benefits, which is why they’ve found their way into supplements.
The emerging research is pretty impressive.Though most people get excited about its cholesterol-lowering properties, what’s more important – at least in my view – is that it also lowers triglycerides and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol. By lowering triglycerides – an independent risk for heart disease – it automatically improves your triglyceride-to-HDL ratio, which has been shown to be a major predictor for heart disease and obesity.
To be effective, a citrus bergamot supplement has to have a high percentage of polyphenols. One brand that meets the polyphenol criteria is ResVitále Bergamot Cholesterol Support ($45, gnc.com).
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I’m reading everywhere that eating fat helps you lose weight. This seems counterintuitive. Can you explain?
Glad to. The myth that eating fat makes you fat has persisted for decades, and in my not-so-humble opinion it is one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic. If that doesn’t seem to make sense right now, it will when you consider the effect food has on hormones.
Remember, everything that has to do with weight is controlled by hormones – they’re totally in charge of the weight gain/weight loss roller coaster. The main hormone responsible for weight gain is insulin, which is why it’s known as the “fat-storage hormone.” (How’s that for a “duh”?)
Insulin goes up (a lot) whenever you eat carbohydrates. It goes up a little when you eat protein. But eating fat doesn’t even budge the needle on insulin secretion. That’s why eating less carbs and eating more fat is frequently a great strategy for weight loss. You just have to make sure it’s the right kind of fat – clean, not toxic. (If you want more details on clean vs. toxic fat, see Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight, Get Healthy Now(HarperOne, 2016.)