Congratulations Laura Horton, winner of the SBT Seabuckthorn Single Source Oil Giveaway!
Sea Buckthorn: The Fat-Filled Fruit
Few fruits are fatty. The ones that do have oily flesh, such as olive, oil palm berry, and avocado, are common sources of edible oils. A few others, such as açai and sea buckthorn berry, are rarer in the North American diet, but they're gaining in popularity as we learn about their health benefits.
Sea buckthorn berry pulp and seed have unique lipid profiles for at least two reasons
1. They contain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (abbreviated as ALA) and omega-6 linoleic acid (abbreviated as LA) essential fats in an approximately 1:1 ratio. A 1:1 ratio is a good balance that's particularly helpful for people who suffer from inflammatory disorders because it helps reduce the risk of inflammatory immune reactions becoming chronic and unregulated.
2. They are one of the richest sources of omega-7 monounsaturated fats, especially one called palmitoleic acid.
Omega-7 Fats ~ Healing Fats Working Under the (Media) Radar
Omega-7 monounsaturated fats are not essential. The body is able to produce them from saturated fats. However, recent studies suggest that supplementing the diet with these omega-7s, and in particular palmitoleic acid, can be beneficial to health.
One study showed that palmitoleic acid can help insulin do its job by improving how the body's cells respond to this hormone. By helping glucose from the blood shuttle into cells, palmitoleic acid can help prevent or improve metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance (which could lead to type II diabetes) and/or damage to blood vessels and blood cells caused by advanced glycation endproducts (abbreviated as AGEs).
It also goes one step beyond. Exciting research suggests that palmitoleic acid may help prevent diabetes by another mechanism. In vitro (that is, in isolated cells cultured in a glass or plastic lab dish), this omega-7 fat helps protect the insulin producing beta-cells of the pancreas from toxins and inflammation-induced damage.
In other words, the specialized cells (called beta-cells) in the pancreas that synthesize insulin are vulnerable to diet, infection, toxins, environmental factors, and other stressors. If they become somehow weakened, they'll be unable to synthesize adequate amounts of insulin when the body is in need of this hormone. This can lead to metabolic imbalances as well as cardiovascular damage.
Whereas long chain saturated fats can damage the pancreas when they are present in high levels in the blood, palmitoleic acid appears to preserve or slightly enhance the function of this vital organ.
Palmitoleic acid also improves how the pancreatic beta-cells respond to glucose in the blood. Palmitoleic acid helps the beta-cells uptake glucose from the blood and in turn synthesize and release insulin into the systemic circulation. Insulin then floods through the body to do its job—move glucose from the blood into body cells where it can be converted into usable cell energy.
Sea buckthorn berry flesh is one of the richest natural sources of omega-7 fats, and sea buckthorn berry seed provides a good amount of it, too! Consuming the oils expressed from both the fruit flesh and seed provides an exceptionally high dose of palmitoleic acid that few other foods provide (avocado flesh and macadamia nut also contain small amounts of this omega-7, but nowhere near what sea buckthorn provides. Maple tree seeds are also high in palmitoleic acid, but few people forage for this wild food!).
Researchers think that the omega-7 oil content is a significant reason that sea buckthorn berries and seeds are very healing for skin and mucous membranes (read about this in Part 1 of this blog series). When omega-7 fats are incorporated into epithelial tissue, they appear to have exceptional healing properties for wounds, ulcers, microbial infections, and inflammation. Combined with the nourishing, anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids ALA and LA (plus the suite of nutrients I discussed in Part 2), sea buckthorn oil is an ideal food for supporting whole body health, especially of the skin and digestive system.
Now, for a quick summary:
- Sea buckthorn is a rich source of a relatively rare omega-7 monounsaturated fat called palmitoleic acid.
- Palmitoleic acid is beneficial for reducing the risk of developing metabolic diseases and cardiovascular diseases because it:
1.1 improves cell response to insulin and helps prevent insulin resistance
1.2 protects beta-cells from various forms of injury, therefore ensuring that the pancreas can synthesize appropriate amounts of insulin on demand1.3 facilitates pancreatic response to circulating glucose levels1.4 supports cardiovascular health by helping to reduce the production of advanced glycation endproducts in the blood and vessel walls
- Palmitoleic acid nourishes and strengthens epithelial tissue, making it a healing anti-inflammatory food for skin and mucosal cells (such as those that line the gastrointestinal tract).
- Sea buckthorn is also rich in essential fatty acids as well as a suite of other vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and phytosterols that contribute to its powerful healing properties (read about these in Part 2 of the blog series).
Advanced glycation endproduct: Abbreviated AGE. A protein or fat that has been damaged (that is, its function or structure becomes compromised) by the random (that is, not enzyme controlled) attachment of a simple sugar (such as glucose or fructose). When formed in the blood, AGEs can contribute to cardiovascular diseases in part because they damage the inner (epithelial) lining of blood vessels.
Beta-cells: Abbreviated B-cell. A type of specialized cell in the pancreas that synthesizes and releases the metabolic hormone insulin.
Epithelial tissue: Tissue that lines the surface of the outer body, such as the skin, and the inner cavities of the body, such as the digestive tract and glands. Epithelial tissue also forms a thin lining over the outer surface of mucosal cells.
Assies, J., et al., 2010. PLoS ONE. 5:e10635.
Cenkowski, S., et al., 2006. Can. Biosys. Eng. 48:3.9.
Dimopoulos, N., et al., 2005. Biochem J. 399:473.
Dubois, V., et al., Eur. J. Lipid Sci. Technol. 109:710.
Morgan, N., et al., 2008. Biochem. Soc. Trans. 36:905.
Yang, B., & H. Kallio. 2002. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 13:160.
Yang, B., et al., 2000. J. Nutr. Biochem. 11:338.
Zeb, A. 2004. Pak. J. Biol. Sci. 4:687.
In Part 1 of this blog series on sea buckthorn, I explained why this wonder of a plant is a popular remedy for disorders of mucous membranes and in Part 2, I explain why sea buckthorn is also effective in alleviating inflammatory skin disorders. In Part 4, I talk about the medicinal properties of the leaves.
FREE PRODUCT GIVEAWAY!
We've paired up with Canada's only sea buckthorn company, SBT Seabuckthorn, to give you a chance to win a bottle of Single Source Seabuckthorn oil (90 capsules) so you can try the amazing healing properties of sea buckthorn yourself! See below for details.