Punicic Acid (CLnA) and Skin

What is Punicic Acid?

Punicic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid with the lipid profile C18:3.  Punicic acid is mostly commonly associated with pomegranate seed oil, and is even named after it.  It is an Omega-5 fatty acid and is a conjugated linolenic acid or CLnA.  Because of the three double bonds and the fact that it is conjugated, oils high in punicic acid tend to go bad quickly.

What is a Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLnA)?

A conjugated linolenic fatty acid is similar to linolenic acid in that they both have 18 molecules with triple bonds, but the CLnA has trans and cis configurations which makes the fatty acid somewhat twisted in its structure.  This means that the molecules cannot line up evenly so CLA oils will be thicker than linolenic oils.

Conjugated linolenic acid is not to be confused with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), although they are similar.  Conjugated linoleic acid has only two double bonds, instead of three.  It is found primarily in the diary products and meats of ruminants (such as cows, sheep, goats, and bison).  It is important that these animals are fed a mainly grass diet instead of grain diet if the CLA concentration is to be high.  In fact studies show that grass-fed animals produce 300%-500% more CLA than animals fed a grain diet.

How does Punicic Acid Help Our Skin?

pomegranate seed oilPunicic acid is good at reducing inflamed skin as well as regenerating new skin and improving skin tone and elasticity.  It has been shown to be anti-microbial and effective at improving epidermal differentiation.  Remember that our skin has many conflicting functions such as keeping things in (like moisture) and keeping things out (like germs and bacteria).  There are different specialized cells in the skin which each perform specific functions.  So punicic acid has been shown to promote this differentiation.   CLA has also shown promise in tests in lightening skin and reducing the effects of photo aging.  There is also evidence that it can help with skin that has suffered sunburn as well as with collagen production.  Because of all of its wonderful properties it is often used in skin care, and particularly in lines for mature skin.

Think that punicic acid sounds pretty amazing?  There was even a study in 2003 done by South Dakota State University and published in the Journal of Medicinal Food that showed a link between pomegranate seed oil and a reduction in skin cancer.  In this study, mice were exposed to cancer causing chemicals. Those who received a topical application of pomegranate seed oil had a significantly reduced rate of skin cancer than those who didn’t receive it.

What Oils are High in Punicic Acid?

Punicic acid is named after the pomegranate whose Latin name is Punica granatum.  It is therefore no surprise that pomegranates are rich in punicic acid (or more specifically it is the pomegranate seed oil that contains the punicic acid).  Punicic acid is also found in the seed oil of bitter gourd and snake gourd, but it is most commonly associated with pomegranate seed oil.

Some of the oils high in Punicic acid include:

  • Pomegranate seed oil (70%) Has a shelf life of about 1 year
  • Calendula oil (64%) Has a shelf life of about 6 to 12 months