Oleic acid is a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils. It is an odorless, colorless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. In chemical terms, oleic acid is classified as a monounsaturatedomega-9 fatty acid, abbreviated with a lipid number of 18:1 cis-9, and a main product of Δ9 desaturase. It has the formula CH3−(CH2)7−CH=CH−(CH2)7−COOH.[page needed] The name derives from the Latin word oleum, which means oil. It is the most common fatty acid in nature. The salts and esters of oleic acid are called oleates. It is part of many oils and thus used in a lot of artificial food, as well as for soap.
Fatty acids (or their salts) often do not occur as such in biological systems. Instead fatty acids such as oleic acid occur as their esters, commonly triglycerides, which are the greasy materials in many natural oils. Oleic acid is the most common monounsaturated fatty acid in nature. It is found in fats (triglycerides), the phospholipids that make membranes, cholesterol esters, and wax esters.
Esters of azelaic acid find applications in lubrication and plasticizers.
The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid or trans-9-octadecenoic acid. These isomers have distinct physical properties and biochemical properties. Elaidic acid, the most abundant trans fatty acid in diet, appears to have an adverse effect on health. A reaction that converts oleic acid to elaidic acid is called elaidinization.
In chemical analysis, fatty acids are separated by gas chromatography of their methyl ester derivatives. Alternatively, separation of unsaturated isomers is possible by argentation thin-layer chromatography.
Oleic acid is used as a component in many foods, in the form of its triglycerides. It is a component of the normal human diet, being a part of animal fats and vegetable oils.
Oleic acid as its sodium salt is a major component of soap as an emulsifying agent. It is also used as an emollient. Small amounts of oleic acid are used as an excipient in pharmaceuticals, and it is used as an emulsifying or solubilizing agent in aerosol products.
Oleic acid is used to induce lung damage in certain types of animals for the purpose of testing new drugs and other means to treat lung diseases. Specifically in sheep, intravenous administration of oleic acid causes acute lung injury with corresponding pulmonary edema.
Oleic acid is used as a soldering flux in stained glass work for joining lead came.
The United States FDA has approved a health claim on reduced risk of coronary heart disease for high oleic (> 70% oleic acid) oils. Some oil plants have cultivars bred to increase the amount of oleic acid in the oils. In addition to providing a health claim, the heat stability and shelf life may also be improved, but only if the increase in monounsaturated oleic acid levels correspond to a substantial reduction in polyunsaturated fatty acid (especially α-Linolenic acid) content. When the saturated fat or trans fat in a fried food is replaced with a stable high oleic oil, consumers may be able to avoid certain health risks associated with consuming saturated fat and trans fat.
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