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Ask Dr. Schork: Healthy Aging, Longevity & C15:0

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Aging is a degradative process involving specific hallmarks that can be targeted to improve our health with aging.
  • Three examples of these hallmarks of aging include early cell death (also called cellular senescence), dysfunctional mitochondria, and impaired cellular signaling.
  • C15:0, the pure powder fatty acid contained in the fatty15 supplement, can improve healthy aging by helping cells function and live longer, repairing mitochondrial function, and restoring proper cellular signaling.

Nicholas Schork, Ph.D., is Scientific Director for the National Institute of Health's National Institute of Aging-sponsored Longevity Consortium. He is also co-founder and Senior Scientist of Seraphina Therapeutics, as well as a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Quantitative Medicine and Systems Biology Division at Translational Genomics Institute, an affiliate of the City of Hope.

As a leader in longevity and healthy aging, we asked Dr. Schork a number of questions about how fatty15 (aka C15:0) fits into it all. Here's what he had to say...

How do people age on a biological level?

Internal processes begin to slow down, and the cells that make up our bodies don’t have the capacity to function like they used to – for example, our ability to repair DNA slows. Our proteins become less stable, and our bodies don’t operate at the same metabolic rate they used to since our cells’ powerhouses, the mitochondria, begin to accumulate damage. The entire body suffers as a result, since every time different cells turn over and try to renew a specific part of the body, there is a chance they might accumulate further damage and not function at the previous level. C15:0, the key metabolite in fatty15, can bolster aspects of these processes on the cellular level and maintain them going forward.

How do longevity experts measure aging?

There are different angles one can see on why people age. The physical wear and tear of everyday life can take a toll on the body, such that the cumulative damage leads to a dysfunction that is further exacerbated by additional damage. There may be some inherent processes, not just those compromised by external forces, that control aging, like an internal clock whose speed may vary from person to person but present in every cell. The real basis for why we age is likely a mix of both. As a result, measures of an inherent aging rate have been proposed. For example, as we age, the ends of the chromosomes associated with the DNA in all our cells, known as ‘telomeres,’ shorten. As telomeres shorten, the DNA is compromised, leading to dysfunction. One measure of biological aging, as opposed to chronological aging, is the length of an individual’s telomeres.

What is healthy aging?

Healthy aging is maintaining biological and cognitive function at as high a level as possible. This can be achieved to some degree through regular exercise, eating well, and taking daily supplements to make up for important nutrients and fatty acids needed during the aging processes, like C15:0 in the form of fatty15, to help your body rebuild internally. 

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What are some of the fundamental processes of aging?

As mentioned on aging on a biological level above, there are a few ‘hallmarks’ of aging the community acknowledges as very likely to be involved in the aging process. These include lessening the ability to repair DNA, loss of protein stability and reduced mitochondrial functioning. It’s known that C15:0 can help maintain the normal functioning of the processes behind these hallmarks of aging and thereby potentially slow the aging process if not depleted. Seraphina is pursuing studies to determine how much C15:0 might be needed to maintain proper amounts and optimize aging processes.

How does nutrition play a role in aging?

A healthy diet filled with nutritious fruits and vegetables is critical to healthy aging since they contain important and essential nutrients to maintain function as we age. Thus, if you eat a healthy diet filled with vitamins and healthy fats, you are helping your body maintain processes that, if compromised, can lead to the hallmarks of aging.

Can C15:0 help support healthy aging? If so, how?

Yes, studies have shown C15:0 supports healthy aging by helping maintain the proper function of many of the processes that, if allowed to diminish, contribute to aging hallmarks. One example involves our cell membranes, which serve as the “armor” for our cells. C15:0 can help maintain those membranes and improve mitochondrial function, thus keeping both internal processes working while not allowing factors external to the cell to compromise these processes.

What are your thoughts about today’s diets in terms of fats and healthy aging?

Today many different diets are based on restricting the total number of calories (‘caloric restriction’) or the time one should eat (‘time restricted feeding’ or ‘intermittent fasting’). Other diets focus on the diet components, making sure there is a certain balance of macro and micronutrients.

Are there any signs you can see in someone who isn’t aging well? When should they add C15:0 in their diet?

A handful of signs signal our body is aging, such as developing a chronic disease, exhibiting the hallmarks of aging, or testing poorly for the marker of aging rate (such as telomere length). One example of a largely age-related chronic disease is anemia. Not enough healthy red blood cells are available to carry proper amounts of oxygen to the body's tissues and organs. C15:0 is likely to improve red blood cell availability and Seraphina is pursuing clinical studies to prove that this is the case. 

When should someone start investing in healthy aging?

It’s best to start investing in healthy aging routines and practices when you’re in a healthy state; since then, the work maintains that health rather than waiting for a disease to occur and then trying to reverse or repair the damage that’s been done. We recommend taking fatty15 to help maintain, stabilize and protect your cells from the stressors of aging as soon as possible, especially since C15:0 is very likely to be essential. 

From your experience in the food & nutrition industry, what sets fatty15 apart?

All the evidence to date suggests that C15:0 (fatty15) is an essential fatty acid. That is, C15:0 is a fatty acid that the body depends on from external sources in the diet as opposed to being generated internally. Since C15:0 has proved to strengthen cell membranes, boost mitochondrial function, and improve cellular homeostasis, its essentiality is even more likely. Thus, taking fatty15 allows people to get the healthy fat we need in our diet without the unhealthy consequences. 

Follow Up Questions

What are other examples of how fatty15 can help with the aging process?

As emphasized, aging is marked by the breakdown and loss of function of certain vital processes. When these processes are compromised, one is more susceptible to virtually all major common chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, etc. Other diseases, such as infectious diseases due to the immune system breaking down with age. Maintaining cellular integrity and function will undoubtedly help prevent or mitigate these diseases and C15:0 can aid in this maintenance.

Can you provide more context on how the aging process’ hallmarks work/impact us as we get older?

Each of the hallmarks implicates an independent, though complimentary process. For three examples, consider that a functioning DNA repair capacity will allow one’s cells to replicate without comprising cell function, maintaining mitochondrial function will ensure cells are powered appropriately and enabling protein stability will allow proper protein function.

As we add anti-aging supplements to our routine, what would you recommend for optimal aging? Are there any supplements that work together with fatty15 and should be incorporated?

There are clearly complementary activities and behaviors that work synergistically to an appropriate intake of essential nutrients to ensure healthy aging. These activities and behaviors include exercising, getting enough sleep, avoiding or reducing stress, and taking advantage of appropriate medical interventions if you develop a chronic condition.

What foods in our diet would you recommend for healthy aging? Do these include C15:0?

This would include a balanced diet that contains all the essential nutrients. Since C15:0 was considered a simple fat for people to avoid in the past, it needs to be taken in appropriate amounts and that is what fatty15 is designed to do: provide an overlooked but likely essential ingredient in one’s diet.

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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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