AEA Conference Takeaways
Emu Oil Composition--Chemistry 101
As many of you know, 3 Feathers is a member of the American Emu Association and we really enjoy the annual conferences. They are a time to connect with other folks in the emu industry, see what other farmers are up to, discover what's happening on the science front, get good business and marketing tips, and, yes, drink beer and laugh with friends you haven't seen all year. If you raise emus, or are considering it, we highly recommend attending a conference and getting to know this group of people. Their collective knowledge is invaluable.
This year there was a particular presentation on the composition of emu oil compared with other types of oils and I wanted to share with you the highlights. We know you love emu oil because of how it feels on your skin and helps your body, but we wanted to share with you the science behind it. Not all fats are the same. Fats are made up of fatty acid chains. All foods and oils contain combinations of multiple different fatty acid chains. There are two main types of fats:
Saturated fat (long chains): This type of fat chain has every available link on a carbon atom occupied by a hydrogen atom--it is saturated by hydrogen. Therefore they form very long chains and are usually solid at room temperature. Think beef tallow, butter, lard. (Included here are medium chain fats also like coconut and palm kernel oil). These fats are very stable.
Unsaturated fat (short chains): These come in two types... Monounsaturated fat has one double bond. The hydrogen is missing so the carbon bonds to itself with a double bond, making a bend in the chain and is therefore liquid at room temperature. Think olive oil, canola oil, and most nut oils.
Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double carbon bonds and so more bends and it remains liquid even when refrigerated. Think fish oil, seed and vegetable oils like corn oil and soybean oil. These oils with double bonds are more unstable--or more susceptible to heat, light, and air.
With that background, emu oil has lots of Omega 3 (Linolenic Acid), a fatty acid chain with a double bond 3 carbon atoms from the end; Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid), a fatty acid chain with a double bond 6 carbon atoms from the end; and Omega 9 (Oleic Acid) a fatty acid chain with, you guessed it, a double bond 9 carbon atoms from the end. These omegas are polyunsaturated (short chain) fats.These are all important dietary fats. Omega 3 and 6 cannot be produced by the body, Omega 9 can be produced but is still needed in a person's diet. These short chain fatty acids can pass through the skin barrier and it is these fatty acids in transition that are responsible for the transdermal properties of emu oil. These omegas further help with inflammation and are critical to cell regeneration.
We would like to thank Alina Sucharski for her video presentation to the AEA 2019 Conference for sharing about fat composition and the value of emu oil. Lots of research still needs to be done to firmly establish the value of emu oil within the scientific community, but progress is being made. For now, trying emu oil for yourself is still the best recommendation we have.