Oleic acid is an omega-9 part of the monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) family. Although oleic acid isn’t essential, meaning the body can synthesize it, it is the most common monounsaturated fatty acid in the diet and is involved in various important bodily processes. For example, it is needed for the structure of cell membranes, including the myelin sheath that protects nerve fibers, and plays a role in maintaining membrane fluidity.
Adequate consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid, has shown to improve heart conditions by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation in the body. Also, for example, many studies have shown the positive effects of a high olive oil intake, rich in oleic acid, on blood pressure. Oleic acid is also needed for healthy brain functions.
Oleic acid can be found in various animal and vegetable sources, and is abundantly present in olive oil. Oleic acid is abundantly present in many healthy high-fat foods oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, almond oil, macadamia oil and sunflower oil. It is also found in avocados. Oleic acid can also be found in some margarines and shortenings but some of these products might also contain a considerable amount of unhealthy trans fat. A healthy diet should contain sufficient amounts of mono and polyunsaturated fats, with a limited amount of saturated and trans fats. Moreover, studies have shown that diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids (incl. olive oil), such as mediterranean diets, were correlated with lower levels of depression and mental health related issues. Mediterranean diets have been positively associated with brain plasticity, mood and nervous system regulation.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are also attractive for athletes as a substitute for a part of their carbohydrate intake, thanks t0, among others, their benefits on blood pressure, glucose metabolism and antioxidant status.
However, as the famous saying goes: all in moderation. An excess of oleic acid can also be harmful, especially if taken in a processed and engineered form. Furthermore, even though monounsaturated fats are fundamentally good for you, an excessive intake of it can create a calorie surplus in your diet, thus leading to weight and fat mass gain.
In conclusion, our oleic acid levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your oleic acid levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.