Oleic acid is the major omega-9 fatty acid present naturally in various animals or vegetable fats and oils. It is colorless and odorless oil though commercial samples might be yellowish. In chemical terms, oleic acid is categorized as monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid shortened with a lipid number of 18:1 cis-9. It has formula CH3(CH2)7CH=CH(CH2)7COOH. The name is derived from Latin word oleum which means oil. In nature, it is a common fatty acid. Oleic acid is used as a component in many foods in form of triglycerides.
This acid is a non-essential fatty acid which means it is naturally produced by human body. It is a basic member of omega-9 class of monounsaturated fatty acids. It accounts for 92% of cis-isomer monounsaturated fats in human diet. In soap, oleic acid as its sodium salt is a major component as emulsifying agent. It is also used as emollient. In pharmaceuticals, small amounts of oleic acid are used as excipient and used as solubilizing or emulsifying agent in aerosol products. Commercially, it is used to prepare lotions and oleates and as pharmaeutical solvent.
It is a solid with low melting point and two crystalline forms are acknowledged. It is a long chain carboxylic acid and its molecule encloses one double bond between C9 and C10 with cis configuration.
History and Origin
The word Oleic acid refers that it is derived from or related to olives. It is ample in many types of nuts and is also diffused by decaying bodies of insects which is used as a pheromone and a warning sign to other insect species.
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Health benefits of Oleic acid
Here are the health benefits discovered of Oleic acid:
- Lowers Blood pressure
Olive oil is beneficial to enhance cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure. Study shows that hypotensive effects of olive oil are caused by high oleic acid. Research shows that intake of oleic acid regulates membrane lipid structure which controls G protein mediated signaling and regulates blood pressure. The high content of oleic acid is responsible for lowering blood pressure effects.
- Reduce cholesterol
Nuts and oils have high content of oleic acid. It is found that diet rich in oleic acid shows equal cholesterol lowering effects by maintaining HDL cholesterol levels and lowering triglycerides. Diet rich in monounsaturated fatty acids especially olive oil are familiar for its cholesterol lowering and health protective effects.
- Burn fat
Intake of healthy fats is a major element to lose weight and keep it off. Oleic acid helps to control excess insulin which is essential for losing weight. Moreover, adding healthy fats to diet helps to lower hunger, overeating and cravings as they are satiating and makes one feel full for longer time period.
A conducted study shows that olive oil enriched diet resulted greater weight loss in an eight week period. In olive oil group, women took plant based olive oil diet that includes 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. Results show that 80 percent of women in olive oil enriched diet experienced weight loss of 5 percent (at least). In addition, it resulted in higher HDL cholesterol levels and lower triglycerides.
- Diabetes prevention
Those with prediabetes symptoms or type 2 diabetes should add more oleic acid to diet. Research shows that saturated fat palmitic acid and the monounsaturated fat oleic acid has beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and type 2 diabetes. It is due to anti-inflammatory actions and prevents activity of insulin signaling pathway. It shows that intake of oleic acid regulates insulin which is released to enhance uptake of glucose from bloodstream.
- Brain activity
Research shows inverse relationship between intake of monounsaturated fatty acids and cognitive decline. It is shown that healthy fats are protective against age associated cognitive decline and may work as natural treatment for Alzheimer’s.
Study was conducted to evaluate fatty acid profiles in brain samples with mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and no cognitive impairment. It is found that postmortem brain plasma from people having Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment have low levels of oleic acid in comparison to those with proper brain function.
- Ulcerative colitis prevention
Those with ulcerative colitis should make oleic acid a part of diet. Study involved 25000 adult men and women living in U.K. evaluated relationship between food ingestion which contains oleic acid and ulcerative colitis development. Higher intake of omega-6 fatty acids was related with development of ulcerative colitis whereas higher intake of oleic acid was inversely related with development of ulcerative colitis.
- Combat infections
Oleic acid and other free fatty acids enhance immune systems and combat infections. Lab and animal studies show it have antibacterial properties and protective effects. Animal study shows that intake of oleic acid has beneficial role in sepsis which is a life threatening infection which spreads through bloodstream. The effect of oleic acid supplementation was examined on mice with sepsis which found that it improved clinical symptoms, prevented liver and kidney injury, increased survival rate and decrease plasma non-esterified fatty acids that promoted during severe systemic inflammatory response.
- Repair damaged skin
This is the main reason why olive oil is being used in skin products. It comprises of oleic acid that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and wound healing effects. Oils have high oleic acid and heavier consistency which seals moisture into skin. It is helpful for people with dry skin or even dry hair. It acts as emollient and used in hair products to make hair softer and smoother.
- Counteract cancer
Oleic acid is an antioxidant which prevents oxidative stress leading to various health conditions such as cancer. It has beneficial effects in cancer processes as it plays a role in activation of different intracellular pathways which are involved in cancer cells development.
- Promotes mood
Study was associated an oleic acid rich diet with higher resting energy expenditure, increased physical activity and lower anger levels. In 20 adolescent boys with ADHD, levels of oleic acid in blood were positively associated with brain plasticity and with openness and extraversion of boy’s personalities.
(Amounts are in nanomoles per milliter)
Age less than 1 year: 250 to 3,500 nmol/mL
Age 1-17 years: 350 to 3,500 nmol/mL
Age 18 years and up: 650 to 3,500 nmol/mL
Translated into consumption per day, 1 to 2 tablespoons of these oils is enough.
In ancient times, oleic acid is used as a remedies and therapies. The natural sources such as olives and nuts are regarded as a part of staple diet and used in treating skin disorders and gastrointestinal illness.
- Avoid using oleic acid supplements when using blood thinners and significantly increases blood pressure and cause bleeding.
- Consult the doctor in case of illness as it causes adverse reactions with medications being used currently.
- Breastfeeding and pregnant women should not use oleic acid supplements.
- Studies have shown risk of developing breast cancer in women with a rise of oleic acid in blood stream.
- Oleic Acid should not be used if one have hypersensitivity.