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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: How Our Bodies Use C15:0 to Make the Second-Ever Discovered Full-Acting Endocannabinoid

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
    • A new peer-reviewed scientific study found that our bodies naturally use C15:0 to make a second-ever discovered full acting endocannabinoid. This molecule is called pentadecanoylcarnitine (PDC).
    • Endocannabinoids are molecules made by our bodies that activate receptors (called CB1 and CB2) which help to support deeper sleep, calmer mood, and cognitive health. 
    • Beyond its role as an endocannabinoid, PDC was found to have additional beneficial immune-calming and serotonin-supporting properties. 

A new peer-reviewed scientific study just dropped in Nature’s Scientific Reports, which showed that our bodies use an essential nutrient, called C15:0, to make the second-ever discovered full-acting endocannabinoid.

Sounds impressive. But first, what is C15:0?

C15:0, also called pentadecanoic acid, is the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since omega-3 and omega-6, which was over 90 years ago. Here are some key facts about C15:0 and essential fatty acids:

  • C15:0 is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid found in trace levels in dairy fat, as well as some types of fish and plants.
  • An essential fatty acid is a nutrient that we need to maintain physiological health, but our bodies can’t make on their own. This means we have to get essential fatty acids routinely from our diets or supplements.
  • Today, there are only three known essential fatty acids: an omega-3, an omega-6, and just recently added - C15:0.

Got that C15:0 is an essential nutrient. What is a full-acting endocannabinoid?

Let’s start with the term ‘endocannabinoid’. An endocannabinoid is a molecule made by our bodies that activates receptors within our endocannabinoid system.

That brings us to the endocannabinoid system, often referred to as the ECS. Our ECS is responsible for deeper sleep, calmer mood, lower inflammation, pain control, and supporting cognition and brain health. This is why the ECS has been considered the holy grail of whole body and mind health.

There are two primary types of receptors in our ECS. They are called CB1 and CB2:

  • CB1 receptors are most concentrated in the brain and help to manage pain, lower stress and anxiety, and protect brain health.
  • CB2 receptors are most concentrated in the body and help to manage inflammatory conditions, arthritis, and pain. 

Okay, now we can define ‘full-acting endocannabinoid.’ A full-acting endocannabinoid activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors. In the recently published paper, pentadecanoylcarnitine (referred to as PDC) was discovered to fully activate both CB1 and CB2 receptors, making it the second-ever discovered full-acting endocannabinoid.

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

Here’s the good news. This study supports that taking fatty15 as your daily C15:0 supplement can provide not only the long-term health benefits of C15:0, but it may provide the added benefit of supporting your endocannabinoid system, including promoting better sleep, calmer mood, and improved joint comfort. 

This means fatty15 supports both your body and mind health. In fact, 2 out of 3 fatty15 customers report feeling near-term benefits within 6 weeks, including deeper sleep, calmer mood, and less snacking between meals.*

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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If PDC is the second-ever discovered full-acting endocannabinoid, what is the first?

The only other known full-acting endocannabinoid is called 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG. 2-AG is made by our bodies using the omega-6 fatty acid, arachidonic acid.

While 2-AG offers broad health benefits, omega-6 takes many steps to make 2-AG, and it is quickly broken down by enzymes. Additionally, arachidonic acid is associated with a pro-inflammatory state. In contrast, both C15:0 and PDC have been shown to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines.

How do our bodies make pentadecanoylcarnitine (PDC)?

When we ingest C15:0 (either as a supplement or in food), this fatty acid goes into our cells and binds with carnitine to make PDC. Once made, PDC is used by our mitochondria to generate energy. PDC also activates important regulators of our mood, sleep, comfort, and immune system, including CB1 and CB2.

Wait – does this discovery have anything to do with cannabis?

Yes and no. Here’s why:

  • The endocannabinoid system was named as such because it was discovered in the 1990s as the system in the body that is activated by cannabis.
  • Cannabis contains THC, which fully activates CB1 and CB2 receptors, as well as cannabidiol (CBD), which can activate CB2 receptors.
  • THC and CBD are called exogenous cannabinoids because they are external compounds that accidentally and artificially activate our endocannabinoid system.
  • In comparison, PDC is an endogenous cannabinoid because our bodies intentionally make PDC to naturally activate our endocannabinoid system, which in turn, supports homeostasis.

Advancements in science are discovering that CB1 and CB2 receptors exist to support our whole body and mind health using endogenous molecules, including PDC, that are naturally and safely made by our own bodies.

Maybe this is asking too much, but does PDC do anything else?

Glad you asked, and it does. The latest study showed that PDC has several health benefits beyond naturally activating CB1 and CB2 receptors. These include the following:

  • Broad immune-calming benefits. When PDC was tested against 12 human cell systems mimicking various disease states, it had dose-response immune-calming effects. This included reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines, like IL-1alpha, ITAC, MCP-1 and IP-10, across 5 cell systems, making PDC relevant to supporting heart, immune, lung, and skin health.
  • Serotonin support for a calmer mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for calming mood and lowering anxiety. In the latest study, PDC mimicked serotonin’s activation of two key receptors, called 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B.
  • Antihistamine activities. Histamine is responsible for itchy eyes, runny noses, and red skin that come with pesky allergies. PDC effectively blocked histamine in cell systems, demonstrating its role as an antihistamine compound.

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 an essential fatty acid, and PDC as an important C15:0 metabolite.

C15:0 was first discovered as an essential fatty acid while Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson was helping Navy dolphins live the longest, healthiest lives possible. Here, as a veterinary epidemiologist, she observed that the healthiest aging dolphins at the Navy had the highest C15:0 levels in their fish-based diets and bodies. Importantly, when less healthy-aging dolphins were fed a diet higher in C15:0, their aging-associated conditions improved. The origin story of C15:0’s discovery as an essential fatty acid has been featured as a TEDx talk.

Using an advanced technology called metabolomics (which is the study of thousands of small molecules in blood that help make us work), it was discovered that a fish-based diet high in C15:0 not only raised circulating C15:0 levels, it also increased levels of PDC. That led the team to isolate PDC and study its potential health benefits.

With these exciting discoveries, 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 publishing their work in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 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 (Nature’s Scientific Reports), which has strict publishing guidelines. This included extensive reviews by an editor and at least three independent experts who concur that the science was done with the utmost care and that the findings and conclusions were valid.
  • 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.
  • Third-party study. The laboratory-based studies were conducted, and data interpreted, by a contracted third party with extensive expertise in the gold-standard panels that were used.
  • Control systems. The laboratory-based studies included non-treated control systems and positive controls, which enabled statistical comparisons of effects of fatty15 against both non-treated controls, as well as comparisons with compounds known to have specific activities.
  • Dose-response studies. To ensure that the results were dose-responsive (as would be expected for an active compound), as many as ten ascending doses of C15:0 were tested in the same assay.
  • 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 2022 TEDx 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

Click here to read the full publication at Nature’s Scientific Reports.

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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