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Deep Dive: Fatty15 vs. Omega-3

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
    • C15:0 (pentadecanoic acid) is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since omega-3.
    • A recent peer-reviewed study put fatty15 (aka pure C15:0) head-to-head against the purest, highest performing omega-3 (EPA).
    • Fatty15 had 36+ cellular benefits across 83% of cell types tested, which was 3x better than omega-3.

A big peer-reviewed scientific study dropped comparing fatty15 to omega-3.

In this study, the pure, vegan-friendly C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 (FA15) was found to be better, broader and safer at repairing cells and restoring cellular health compared to the purest and highest performing omega-3 (EPA).

Let’s take a deeper dive into this study and what this means for your long-term health and wellness.

What is fatty15?

Fatty15 is a breakthrough, award-winning, and science-backed C15:0 supplement, containing a 99% pure, vegan-friendly, and plant-based C15:0 powder, called FA15.

Got it. What is C15:0?

C15:0 (also called pentadecanoic acid) is a healthy fat naturally present in dairy products, as well as some types of fish and plants. Dozens and dozens of studies from around the world have linked higher C15:0 in our bodies to healthy metabolism, balanced immunity, and healthy hearts. In some cases, higher C15:0 is even associated with longer life.

Beyond associations, we now know how C15:0 actively repairs, restores and revitalizes our long-term health at the cellular level, including by:

  • Strengthening our cells (and us) against age-related breakdown
  • Repairing mitochondrial function, which keeps our body’s energy-producers going
  • Naturally activating receptors (including PPARs and AMPK) that regulate our metabolism, immunity, mood, sleep and appetite.

Now that you have the 101 on fatty15, let’s get to the latest study's results.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. What did this study find?

Simply put, fatty15 is better, broader and safer than the purest, highest performing omega-3 (EPA) in repairing and restoring cellular (aka your) health.  

Here’s why.

  • Better - Fatty15 has 26+ more clinically-relevant benefits than omega-3. While fatty15 had 36 clinically-relevant and dose-responsive benefits, omega-3 only had ten. Discovered fatty15 benefits included multiple immune-calming and immune-balancing activities, along with preventing “bad” cells from proliferating.
  • Broader - Fatty15 repairs 2.5x more cell types compared to omega-3. While fatty15 repaired 10 out of 12 (83%) cell-based systems, omega-3 only safely repaired 4 out of 12 (33%) of them. The cell-based systems repaired by fatty15 were relevant to immune, gut, heart, joint, skin, red blood cell, and lung health.
  • Safer - Fatty15 is safe for 12 out of 12 cell types. Omega-3 was toxic to 4 out of 12 cell types. While fatty15 was safe to cells at all concentrations tested, omega-3 was toxic to 33% of cell types at the highest dose (50 uM). Cell types killed by omega-3 included lung and blood vessel cells.

What does this mean to my long-term health and wellness?

In addition to supporting your long-term health, 2 out of 3 fatty15 customers report feeling near-term benefits within 6 weeks, including deeper sleep, calmer mood, and less snacking between meals. Reported long-term benefits include healthier skin and hair, as well as metabolic, heart, immune, red blood cell and liver supporting benefits.*

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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So, why did this study compare fatty15 to omega-3?

First, let’s talk about essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are the VIPs of the healthy fat world. This is because our bodies need them to stay healthy, but our bodies don’t readily make them. As such, we must get adequate amounts of these healthy fats through our diet or supplements. 

There are only three known essential fatty acids: an omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid), an omega-6 (linoleic acid), and C15:0.  

Scientific evidence that C15:0 meets the rare criteria of being an essential fatty acid include the following: 

  • People with low C15:0 levels have poorer long-term health, supporting that we need to maintain specific C15:0 levels in our body to stay healthy.
  • Our bodies don’t readily make C15:0, which means we must get adequate amounts of C15:0 through our diets or supplements to maintain healthy body levels.
  • C15:0 supplementation has been demonstrated to improve metabolic, heart, liver, immune and red blood cell health, supporting that C15:0 is not just associated with better health, but the cause of long-term health.

To better understand just how essential C15:0 is, this latest study looked at how well fatty15 protected and repaired health at the cellular level compared to a leading omega-3 fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Why did this study choose the specific omega-3 fatty acid, EPA?

The most common omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Among large, randomized and placebo-controlled clinical trials, only pure EPA (explicitly without DHA) has been demonstrated to protect long-term health, specifically heart health, in adults.  

Given that pure EPA met the highest bar of healthy fatty acids in clinical trials, this study put the pure C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 head-to-head against pure EPA.

What did this study evaluate, and what is a ‘cell-based system’?

To evaluate the true essentiality and safety of fatty15 and EPA in supporting our long-term health, an extensive panel of 12 cell-based systems, representing our whole body, was used. 

Here's a quick double-click in on the panel used in this study. Human cell-based systems are routinely used in the therapeutics world to evaluate compounds for safety and efficacy. The specific BioMAP® Diversity Plus panel was used in this study because it:

  • Is approved by the FDA as a non-animal alternative to evaluating safety and efficacy of molecules in supporting health.
  • Uses 148 clinically-relevant measurements, with each measurement known to be relevant to supporting long-term health and wellness.
  • Evaluates dose-response of a molecule with its benefits. Specifically, is increased efficacy seen with increasing dose, as would be expected of a truly essential nutrient?
  • Evaluates repairing mechanisms across a broad range of cell types. By testing the benefits of a nutrient to a variety of cell types, including blood vessel, immune, lung and skin cells, this panel can help explain not only how a nutrient works to provide health benefits, but how broadly these benefits apply throughout the body.
  • Enables benchmarking against other molecules, including similar nutrients.
  • Has been demonstrated to successfully predict clinical outcomes.

In summary, these 12 cell-based systems, which included blood vessel, immune, lung, and skin cells, measured 148 different clinically-relevant markers to understand and compare how well fatty15 and EPA repair and restore our cells, and therefore, our baseline health. 

Wait...what? Omega-3 was toxic to cells?

While omega-3s have been linked to numerous health benefits over the years, they have an important Achilles heel. Namely, omega-3s are fragile and susceptible to oxidation. 

Here’s where we need to nerd out a bit to explain why.

  • First, omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids. When a fatty acid is unsaturated, its chemical structure has double bonds. These double bonds serve as bending points that make it more fragile. Polyunsaturated fatty acids have multiple double bonds, making them even more fragile, including making them oils at room temperature. 
  • Second, these oils are readily oxidized by…well, oxygen. When exposed to oxygen, omega-3s and other polyunsaturated fatty acids start going bad. This process is called lipid peroxidation. We know it better as going rancid.
  • Third, while as many as half of omega-3 supplements on the shelf are rancid, they can also go bad in your cells. Omega-3s get integrated into our cell membranes. Because omega-3s are fragile, they can undergo lipid peroxidation in our cells and body.
  • Finally, omega-3 driven lipid peroxidation can be toxic to cells.  As shown in this recent study, higher levels of omega-3s can cause cell death. This is why Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, is often included in omega-3 supplements - to counter expected oxidative damage from omega-3s.

In comparison, C15:0 is a good and stable saturated fatty acid that has no double bonds, is not susceptible to oxidation, does not readily break down, and works to protect cells. 

This is why some folks want to rename polyunsaturated fatty acids as poly-unstable fatty acids - and saturated fatty acids as stable fatty acids.

I get it - C15:0 sounds great. But can’t I just get this from food?

While C15:0 is available in trace amounts in food, especially whole fat dairy products, there are a few reasons why the pure C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 (FA15) can be even better for your health.

  • Food-based C15:0 is tied up in complex lipids called triacylglycerides, which we cannot absorb. Because of this, digestive enzymes are needed to break C15:0 down into free fatty acids, which can then be absorbed. In comparison, fatty15 provides ready-to-absorb free fatty acid C15:0.
  • Foods with healthy C15:0 also contain bad saturated fats. While dairy fat contains trace amounts of C15:0, these foods contain much higher levels of even-chain saturated fats (like, C16:0), which come with increased calories and continue to be linked to increased risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Fatty15 was made to provide only the good fat with only 1 calorie.
  • Our most common food source of C15:0 is dairy fat. In comparison, the pure and award-winning C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 is vegan–friendly and has zero additives.

In addition to all of the reasons above, only the pure C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 has been extensively studied for safety and efficacy, including the current study demonstrating the many cellular benefits of fatty15.

Wait a minute. This study was authored by one of the founders of the company that sells fatty15. Doesn’t this make it a biased study?

Let’s start with the science that led to the discovery of C15:0 as a good fat. 

Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson is a veterinary epidemiologist who, back in 2015, initially discovered C15:0 as an active and beneficial ingredient. This surprising finding happened when Steph was studying how to help older Navy dolphins live their longest, healthiest lives possible.

Specifically, Steph and her team at the Navy recognized that some dolphins, all of which live in the open ocean, aged healthier than others. Since dolphins eat an all-fish diet, her team reasonably hypothesized that higher omega-3 fish diets likely predicted the healthiest aging dolphins.

Turning the healthy fat pyramid on its head, however, Steph and her team unexpectedly discovered that it was not higher levels of omega-3s, but instead higher levels of C15:0, that predicted the healthiest dolphins. 

With this exciting discovery, Steph and her Navy physician husband, Eric, founded Seraphina Therapeutics and worked cooperatively with the Navy to develop a pure, vegan-friendly C15:0 ingredient (FA15) and the world’s first C15:0 supplement, fatty15.

As a military family of doctors, Steph and Eric have started a movement to improve global health - one amazing person at a time.

This global movement includes continuing the team’s rigorous science around C15:0, including putting their own C15:0 ingredient to the test against the purest and highest-bar omega-3.

To address concerns of bias, Steph and her team make a concerted effort to go above and beyond typical studies to ensure that their science is responsible, valid, and transparent, including the following for the current paper:

  • Peer-reviewed publication. All of the science in the current paper was peer-reviewed and independently published by a highly reputable journal (PLOS ONE), which has strict publishing guidelines. This includes extensive reviews by an editor and two independent experts, who must concur that the science was done with the utmost care and that the findings and conclusions were valid.
  • Third-party study. The laboratory-based studies were conducted, and data interpreted, by a contracted third party with extensive expertise in the well-known panel that was used (BioMAP DiscoverX panel).
  • Control systems. The laboratory-based studies included non-treated control systems, which enabled statistical comparisons of effects of fatty15 against non-treated controls, as well as comparisons with omega-3 (EPA).
  • Repeated results. To ensure that the results were repeatable,  the same extensive panel was repeated with pure C15:0 from two different sources.
  • Raw data provided. To provide further transparency, all raw data from the studies were provided to the public as supplementary materials in the paper.
  • Federally funded. This work was part of an Office of Naval Research funded study (N00014-21-9-002), the proposal of which was reviewed and approved by the Department of Defense.
  • Conflict of interest disclosure. In this paper, it is disclosed that fatty15’s company has licensed the commercialization of C15:0 from the U.S. Navy, and it is shared that this company has a C15:0 supplement product on the market.

What’s next?

There are now over 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications consistently supporting C15:0 as the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since the omegas (which was 90 years ago), and the science around C15:0’s specific health benefits is continuing to grow.

Among next-step studies is an ongoing double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial with fatty15, which is being independently conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer at the University of California, San Diego. 

Updates to the growing list of studies around C15:0 can be found here.

As a featured 2022 TEDx San Diego talk and listed as a 2022 Fast Company World Changing Idea, the fatty15 team’s movement to improve global health is well underway! 

Read the study

Venn-Watson S. and Butterworth C. Broader and safer clinically-relevant activities of pentadecanoic acid compared to omega-3: Evaluation of an emerging essential fatty acid across twelve primary human cell-based disease systems. PLOS ONE (2022).

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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