Yes, omega 7 – the essential fatty acid no one talks about – is essential if you’re experiencing dry eyes, mouth and skin. Anna Magee reports
You’ve no doubt heard plenty about omega-3 fatty acids, those essential fats our bodies can’t make on their own that are key to brain and heart health. We’re often told we need to get our omega 3s from oily fish or flaxseeds. You may even have heard of omega 6 in poultry, eggs, sunflower or walnut oils or omega 9 fatty acids found in avocados, pecans and cashews and more prevalent in our diets.
But there’s one group of essential fats that are rarely talked about but extremely important to our bodies’ functioning. Omega-7 unsaturated fatty acids are found in certain fish, like salmon and anchovy, and oils such as olive and macadamia.
Omega-7 unsaturated fatty acids are found in certain fish, like salmon and anchovy, and oils such as olive and macadamia
Omega 7 fatty acids also occur in high quantities in sea buckthorn oil which is from a shrub that grows in sandy coasts. The sea buckthorn seeds and orange berries contain a wide range of essential nutrients, most notably omega-7 fatty acids, along with omega 3s, beta-carotene and polyphenols.
‘The nutrients found in sea buckthorn oil are essential to the health of the body’s mucous membranes, whose function is to help keep our eyes, skin, mouth and intimate areas well lubricated,’ says Rick Hay, nutritionist and Nutritional Director at Healthista.
They also have anti-inflammatory effects, Hay explains. ‘Sea Buckthorn oil can also help treat hay fever and the symptoms of the cold such as streaming nose and eyes.’
‘The beta carotene found in sea buckthorn oil is great for immune function too,’ Hay explains.
Sea buckthorn is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which makes it great for vegetarians to take who don’t eat fatty fish, asserts Hay. ‘People tend to focus on omega 3 from fish oil so they aren’t aware of the other omegas, such as omega 3 and 7 from sea buckthorn oil, that are just as good and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.’
Studies have shown supplementing with sea buckthorn oil could help ease the following symptoms in particular.
Dry or red eyes
It’s thought that some 30 per cent of people aged 50 and over have suffered from dry eyes. But even those of us not yet middle-aged are likely to have suffered at some point, especially if we use the blue-light emitting screens found in computers, smart phones, tablets and TVs. Contact lens use can also contribute to dry eyes.
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on 100 men and women with dry eye symptoms, including soreness, dryness, blurred vision, burning, redness and watery eyes, half were given PharmaNord’s Omega 7 SBA24 supplements and half a placebo. In the research, published in 2010 in The Journal of Nutrition the omega 7 group consumed four capsules (two grams) of omega 7 supplements daily for three months and experienced significantly reduced redness and burning symptoms and the contact lens wearers among them reported fewer overall eye symptom days.
Essential fats such as omega 7 and omega 3 are essential to the production of collagen and sea buckthorn in particular, when applied to the skin or taken orally, can help skin hydration.
‘The anti-inflammatory properties of sea buckthorn oil can also help to reduce skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema,’ says Rick Hay. ‘I also recommend it for red skin conditions such as rosacea and sunburn and because it supports the mucous membranes so well, it could also help reduce mouth ulcers. Studies have also shown it could help skin dryness from radiotherapy’.
Omega 7’s importance to intimate lubrication is a well kept secret in the natural health world. But those in the know seek out sea buckthorn supplements as various trials have shown that supplementation can help with the feeling of dryness and irritation of the urinary system and genitals. This is particularly important as intimate dryness can lead to painful intercourse and loss of libido, especially in women.
Vaginal dryness is a key symptom of the menopause. As oestrogen levels drop, women experience a reduction or cessation of the natural lubrication brought about by this hormone. This can be alleviated by Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), however, not all woman can – nor want to – take this.
One study published in the journal Maturitas in 2014 gave 116 women experiencing vaginal dryness, itching or burning Omega 7 SBA24 supplements or a placebo. After three months, there was an overall improvement in vaginal lubrication and overall vaginal health in the omega 7 group, leading the researchers to conclude that it was a potential alternative for women who didn’t want to take HRT.
Dry mouth affects a staggering 40 per cent of adults, mainly women and the elderly. Although it can be a symptom of a salivary gland dysfunction, it can also be a side-effect of stress and some medications such as antidepressants. Sea buckthorn can alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth, with research showing an improvement in symptoms after supplementation.
This is especially important as saliva is essential for cleaning the mouth. A prolonged dry mouth can result in food debris accumulation, additional dental plaque and elevated risk if tooth decay and gum disease.
What omega 7 should I take and how much?
There are a lot of sea buckthorn omega-7 supplements on the market, but Pharma Nord’s Omega-7 SBA 24 £19.95 is the only one that has featured in large-scale published clinical trials. Most studies have been done on doses of about four capsules a day. The manufacturers recommend four capsules a day for the first two weeks and then two capsules a day afterwards.
In terms of effectiveness, consumer research on over 7000 users of Omega-7 SBA24 supplements found 92 per cent consistently found them effective. Seven per cent said it worked within a week, 30 per cent within two weeks and 56 per cent after 4-6 weeks.
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