Palmitoleic acid (POA) is a monounsaturated omega-7 fatty acid (16:1n7).
The main dietary sources of palmitoleic acid include dairy products, avocado oils, oily fish, and macadamia nuts. Macadamia nuts contain the cis- isomer of POA, while dairy products mainly contain the trans- isomer. Like many fatty acids, POA can also be endogenously made from the breakdown of triglycerides, the desaturation of palmitic acid, or de novo synthesis from carbohydrates. POA is an important signaling lipokine, produced mainly by white adipose tissue, that regulates important metabolic processes such as skeletal muscle glucose disposal, insulin sensitivity, and hepatic lipid deposition. It is also a modulator of adipocyte lipolysis, however, studies are mixed as to POA’s specific role in obesity. Epidemiologic studies show that circulating POA levels are involved in cholesterol metabolism and hemostasis, though the results are mixed as to their specific cardiovascular outcomes.
- Frigolet ME, Gutiérrez-Aguilar R. The Role of the Novel Lipokine Palmitoleic Acid in Health and Disease. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md). 2017;8(1):173S-181S.
- Bolsoni-Lopes A, Festuccia WT, Farias TS, et al. Palmitoleic acid (n-7) increases white adipocyte lipolysis and lipase content in a PPARα-dependent manner. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013;305(9):E1093-E1102.
- Sanders TAB. 1 - Introduction: The Role of Fats in Human Diet. In: Sanders TAB, ed. Functional Dietary Lipids. Woodhead Publishing; 2016:1-20.
Decreased intake of POA-containing foods, or palmitic acid can lower POA levels. Also, since POA can be made in the desaturation of palmitic acid, lack of vitamin and mineral cofactors, or a SNP in that enzyme, may contribute to lower levels. Clinical associations of low POA levels are mixed.
Elevations of POA can be seen with dietary intake of dairy products or macadamia nuts. Surplus dietary carbohydrates and high intake of its precursor palmitic acid might also result in higher POA.
POA has many beneficial physiologic effects. In epidemiologic studies, higher intake of the trans-isomer of POA from dairy has been associated with lower levels of inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity, and decreased risk of diabetes. Alternatively, high POA levels have also been associated with various forms of cancers. There is a theory that endogenous production of palmitoleic acid may be an underlying cause of cell proliferation and survival in cancer progression. However, this needs more investigation.
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