Most of us know about omega-3 and omega-6, but omega-9 fatty acid is not as talked about very much. You never hear commercials telling us their product is fortified with omega-9. But omega-9 is another fatty acid that is healthy for us in many ways.
Omega 3, 6 and 9 Fatty Acids
Omega-9 is a non-essential fatty acid, which means our body can make omega-9 fatty acids so we should not need to get it from our diet or supplements. Our body uses both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to make omega-9. If your diet is lacking in omega-3 and or omega-6, you could need to increase your dietary intake of all three omega fatty acids.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and omega-9 is a monounsaturated fat (MUFA). Both Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids because our body cannot make them and we need to get them from our diet for good health.
Omega-3 supplements are more talked about since they are not as available in our diets, especially if you are a vegan. Wild caught cold water fish are the best form of omega-3 in our diets, flax seed and flax seed oil are also good sources.
Omega-6 is too readily available in our diets, most of it coming from the vegetable oils like soy, corn and sunflower found in much of our processed foods. Healthier forms of omega-6 are in grains and meat.
Food Sources of Omega-9
Omega-9 is readily available in our diets if you eat the right foods, but if your diet is lacking in these foods, you could be missing out on the health benefits of omega-9. The best food source for omega-9 is olive oil which contains the main form of fatty acid found in omega-9, oleic acid. This is one reason why the Mediterranean diet is considered to be healthy. Other foods that are good sources of omega-9 include:
- Sesame oil
There are those who think the above foods, especially avocados, are too high in fat and should be avoided for weight loss. The fats in these foods are healthy fats and should not be avoided. In fact, avocados are one of the healthiest foods you can eat since they contain a good amount of omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids and 18 amino acids including the essential amino acids. There are studies that show that avocados can actually help with weight loss .
The Health Benefits of Omega-9
Like the other omega fatty acids, omega-9 also has several health benefits including:
Helps reduce high blood pressure
- Raises the good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Improves the immune system
- Protects against certain cancers
- Slows the progression of ALD, which is a life threatening disease that affects the brain and the adrenal glands.
All of the omega fatty acids work together, and a deficiency in omega-3 and or omega-6 can cause your body to be deficient in omega-9.
It could be hard to become deficient in omega-9, but if you think you are, these are the symptoms of an omega-9 deficiency. These symptoms are rather broad and could be associated with numerous other health problems. The symptoms include hair loss, dandruff, bumps on the back of your arms, eczema like symptoms, dry itchy skin, stiff or painful joints, dry eyes, a craving for fatty foods, cracking and peeling finger tips and irregular heartbeat.
The Bottom Line on Omega-9
One little study confused the issue with olive oil, omega-9 and good health. It was found that a meal of bread and olive oil actually constricted the arterial blood flow by 31% . This 1999 study used only 10 participants, but is still widely quoted by the pro-canola oil crowd, since canola oil also contains a good amount of omega-9 fatty acids.
A further study found that adding vegetables to the meal of bread and olive causes no restriction of blood flow. Vegetables contain a lot of antioxidants and phytochemicals, so it must the combination of foods with olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet healthy.
What all of this shows is that the health benefits of omega-9 go along with the health benefits of the other essential fatty acids working in combination or synergy with a healthy diet including vegetables and the foods or oils that do contain omega-9. Do not overdo it with these oils, fats are still fats.
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Copyright © Sam Montana 2012
 PubMed - Substitution of high monounsaturated fatty acid avocado for mixed dietary fats during an energy-restricted diet: Nutrition. 2005 Jan;21(1):67-75. The postprandial effect of components of the Mediterranean diet on endothelial function. J Am Coll Cardiol, 2000; 36:1455-1460