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A New Take on Comfort Food: Getting the Anxiety-Lowering Effects of Food without the Calories

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
    • When faced with stress, the part of our brain that helps to calm us down is called the hippocampus.
    • Many comfort foods are comforting because they contain fats that activate receptors, called PPARα, in our hippocampus that can decrease anxiety.
    • Fatty15 contains only the good fat (aka C15:0) that naturally binds to PPARα, without the calories of comfort food. 

Most of us know that when life gets stressful, we can become more anxious and may respond to this anxiety by seeking comfort food to calm our mood. For many, there is nothing like a big bowl of melty, hot macaroni and cheese to push away stress and decrease anxiety.

But when life continues to be stressful, constantly turning to unhealthy comfort foods can take a toll on our bodies, as well as our minds.

So, what if there was an ability to get the comfort part of comfort food - without the calories?

First, let’s understand how our brains cope with stress. Then we can talk about when this coping goes awry and how to get our natural stress-management superpowers back on track with fatty15.

How we cope with stress

Our brains were built to handle stress. Specifically, the hippocampus – a part of the limbic system in our brain – helps to decrease anxiety and enables us to calm down. Here’s how:

  • Get ready to fight. When faced with stress, our body releases cortisol to aid in a ‘fight’ response, which is important if we want to quickly jump out of the way of a bus, or a saber toothed tiger.
  • Wait, let’s calm down. After that immediate stress response, our hippocampus helps to stop the release of cortisol, enabling us to calm down.
  • Here’s where anxiety comes in. If there is ongoing stress for long periods of time, our hippocampus can literally wear down in size, limiting its ability to help our mind keep peace with our body. This is what we call anxiety.
  • Improving our resilience to manage stress. Our hippocampus is given the extra gift of plasticity, meaning that it can adapt to handle stress. The more we can protect this resilience, the better we can manage stress and reduce our anxiety.

Wait – weren’t we talking about comfort food? Yes, we were.

Why comfort food comforts us

There is a reason that many comfort foods are filled with fat. Fatty acids naturally bind to key receptors present throughout our body, including receptors in the hippocampus that help to keep us calm.

Here's a few more facts about fatty acids and our brain:

  • Our hippocampus contains receptors, called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARα), that sit and wait for fatty acids and other molecules to activate them.
  • Studies have shown that loss of PPARα receptors results in higher anxiety and poorly controlled physical responses to stress.
  • When molecules (like fatty acids) activate PPARα receptors in the hippocampus, people are better able to remain calm in stressful situations.

Talk about great dinner conversation. But before you run to your mom’s beef and cheese casserole every time you experience stress, it is important to know that ongoing intake of 'bad' even-chain saturated fatty acids (which are highly prevalent in comfort foods) can lead to an healthy cycle that can actually increase your anxiety.

Today, advances in science are providing healthier alternatives to keeping our hippocampus protected and doing its job to help us cope with stress.

How fatty15 can improve our stress response – without the bad fat & calories*

Fatty15 is a daily supplement containing pure, powder C15:0 (also called pentadecanoic acid) that naturally activates PPARα receptors. C15:0 is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid present in trace levels in butter and other whole fat dairy products, as well as some fish and plants. The presence of C15:0 in high fat foods, like butter, cheese and warm whole fat milk, may help to explain why comfort foods are so darn comforting.*

But aren’t saturated fats bad for us? Unlike even-chain saturated fatty acids (like C16:0) that have long been associated with poor health, odd-chain saturated fatty acids (like C15:0) have been repeatedly associated with good health. In fact, growing evidence supports that C15:0 is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered in 90 years. Which means, we may need to eat a certain amount of C15:0 in order to maintain our general health.*

So, instead of having to eat high calorie and high-fat foods containing both bad and good saturated fats to remain calm, fatty15 allows you to get just the good C15:0 fat you need. By naturally binding to and activating PPARα receptors present throughout your body and brain, science supports that fatty15 may help you respond better to stress.*

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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Fatty15 consumer feedback*

Of survey respondents, 7 out of 10 consumers reported feeling calmer and/or less stressed within 6 weeks after taking daily fatty15. 

  • “Despite my work intensity and personal responsibilities being at all time highs, I have noticed that my mood and anxiety levels are dramatically improved.”
  • “Though I’ve only been taking fatty15 for two weeks I already feel calmer and more balanced.”
  • “I note after 3 weeks an energized, yet mellow state.”
  •  "I have felt a sense of steadiness daily since taking fatty15."
  • "More energy, less stress, and in better mood."
  • "I have been on fatty15 for a few months now. I feel calm and upbeat."

Read the science 

For a summary of peer-reviewed and published science on C15:0 (pentadecanoic acid), including our studies in Scientific Reports demonstrating C15:0 as a natural PPAR activator and papers discussing the role of PPAR ligands in decreasing anxiety via the hippocampus, please click here.


Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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