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Saturated Fatty Acids: Everything You Should Know

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
    • There are four different classifications of lipids (fatty acids).
    • A new class of saturated dietary fat, called odd-chain saturated fat, has recently become the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered since the omegas. 
    • Taking a supplement like fatty15 can help restore your circulating levels of this fat and help protect your metabolic health.* 

Get ready; we’re going to change everything you think you know about healthy fats, bad fats, and your dietary intake of fat. Through scientific discovery and meta-analyses from numerous recent studies, we’re going to explain why not all saturated fats are bad for you and why increasing your saturated fat intake (correctly) could help support your health.

First, let’s understand the difference between monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans fat, and saturated fats. 

Types of Fatty Acids

It’s no secret the American diet is full of dietary fatty acids. Even if you aren’t on a high-fat diet, chances are you are eating more fat than you realize. Fat content is sneaky, with dietary fatty acids appearing in foods that we know as both “healthy” and “unhealthy.”

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Fats that are routinely called healthy fats include monounsaturated fats. These are fats that have a single carbon-to-carbon double bond. These fats are liquid at room temperature and solid when chilled. 

Plant-based vegetable oils like olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, and peanut oil all contain monounsaturated fatty acids. 

The American Heart Association encourages the consumption of monounsaturated fats in our diets to help reduce our risk factors for heart issues like coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis. 

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Polyunsaturated fats are by far the most popular in terms of being considered “healthy.” These types of fatty acids have two or more double bonds in their carbon chains and are also liquid at room temperature. 

Both omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are examples of polyunsaturated fats. These can be found in oils like olive oil and safflower oil and in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts. 

Trans Fat

Of all the types of fat we’ll cover, we can all collectively agree that trans fat is not healthful. Trans fat is a human-made fat created through the process of hydrogenation. This method was developed to make polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats solid at room temperature so they wouldn’t become rancid. 

There are zero health benefits of consuming trans fats, which can be found in animal fat like lard and used to be found in products like margarine and processed snack foods.

In 2018, the U.S. banned trans fats, but that doesn’t mean you still aren’t consuming them. Fried foods, for example, naturally contain some trans fat because the high cooking temperature of the oil increases its trans fat presence.

Saturated Fatty Acids

With regards to saturated fats, the world has labeled them as being bad for us, but recent science suggests that that is not the case.

Solid at room temperature, these fats are liquid when heated. A saturated fatty acid has either an even or odd number of hydrogen atoms that surround (or saturate) each carbon atom. 

Saturated fats are found in foods like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and whole dairy products. It can also be found in animal meat. 

Are All Saturated Fats Bad?

Science supports that not all saturated fats are bad for us. In fact, some are even essential to maintain our health. How did saturated fats become our enemy? 

In 1977, the US Government provided dietary guidance that removing fats, especially saturated fats from our diets, could decrease our risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, this guidance was flawed and, over the next 40 years, the US population experienced a dramatic rise in diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

More recent data supports that not all saturated fatty acids are equal. A class of saturated fatty acids, called odd-chain saturated fatty acids including C15:0, have recently been identified as being essential for our health and wellness.

Science now supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids are associated with better heart, liver, and metabolic health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats. This means that of our total fat consumption, we should aim to increase our circulating levels of these healthy, odd-chain, saturated fats. 

A Quick Note About Even-Chain Saturated Fats

Even-chain saturated fatty acids have an even number of carbon atoms. They’re repeatedly associated with negative health markers, like bad low-density lipoprotein (or “LDL”) cholesterol increases. 

These fatty acids are linked with an increased risk of heart disease and can be found in red meat, full-fat dairy, and palm oil. That brings us to how to consume more odd-chain, healthy saturated fat without consuming unhealthy even-chain saturated fat. 

Understanding C15:0, A Good Odd-Chain Saturated Fatty Acid

Our bodies need C15:0 to maintain our health but can’t readily make it on their own, which makes it an essential nutrient. That means we have to get it from our diets. Further, C15:0 is the building block of the other, good odd-chain saturated fats. 

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Foods That Contain C15:0

C15:0 is found primarily in trace amounts in whole-fat cows milk. However, by increasing your intake of whole-fat dairy products you’d also be increasing your caloric intake and consuming a lot more unhealthy, even-chain saturated fats.

A solution? Fatty15

Fatty15 is the award-winning, sustainably-produced supplement that contains FA15™, the pure, vegan-friendly version of C15:0, Further science supports that fatty15 has 3 times more clinically relevant benefits than the purest, highest performing omega-3 (EPA).*

The Truth About Omega-3

For a long time, omega-3 has been the MVP of fatty acids. However, omega-3 has a few shortcomings that are too important not to discuss. 

Is Omega-3 Essential?

While it is true that one form of omega-3 (ALA) is an essential fatty acid, the other two forms of omega-3 (DHA and EPA) are not. However, you’ll find most omega-3 supplements contain a combination of these fatty acids. 

Can Omega-3 Spoil?

Remember that omega-3 is polyunsaturated fat, which means it is liquid at room temperature and subject to oxidation. This means omega-3, fish oil supplements can go rancid, just like cooking oil. Independent studies have shown that as many as one out of every 10 bottles of fish oil capsules sold are rancid before they are even purchased and over 50 percent have close to or over the recommended maximum limit of rancidity. 

Manufacturers often try to side skirt this issue by including tocopherols (vitamin E) as an antioxidant in the ingredients or by including scent and taste masking ingredients to prevent consumers from knowing if the product is rancid or not. Even worse, fish oil can go rancid inside your body just like it can go rancid on store shelves. 

Even more surprising, animal studies have shown that highly oxidized fish oil can actually have a negative impact on total cholesterol levels and even increase insulin resistance. These facts should be considered before choosing to take omega-3, fish oil supplements.

Are There Side Effects of Omega-3?

The amount of omega-3 needed to reap the benefits (especially the cardiovascular disease-preventing) benefits) is between 2,000 mg and 3,000 mg per day, which usually translates into eight to 10 oily capsules per day. 

With increased dosage comes the risk of side effects like:

  • Thinning of the blood
  • Risk of bruising
  • Low blood pressure
  • Excessive bleeding if an injury were to occur

Further, fish oil supplements have a fishy aftertaste, even when you take so-called “burpless” formulas. 

The good news is that C15:0, the only ingredient in fatty15, was found to be better, broader, and safer than the purest and highest performing omega-3.*

Fatty15: Better, Broader, and Safer than Omega-3

Researchers put fatty15 up against the purest, most powerful form of omega-3 (EPA). Here’s what they found:

  • Fatty15 is better.* In the study, fatty15 had 26 more benefits than omega-3. Omega-3 only had 10 clinically-relevant benefits, but fatty15 had 36! Additionally, researchers found that fatty15 actually stopped bad cells from proliferating. 
  • Fatty15 is broader.* Researchers studied 12 different cell types and compared how fatty15 and omega-3 affected both. Fatty15 repaired 2.5 times more cell types than omega-3, which could only safely repair four out of 12 types. 
  • Fatty15 is safer.*Most importantly, the study showed that omega-3 was toxic to four of the 12 cell types at the highest doses, including lung and blood vessel cells. Fatty15 was safe for all 12 cell types. 

Further, higher levels of C15:0 has been repeatedly associated with healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improved heart health. You could say we are biased, but the science supports that fatty15 is a better choice for supporting your whole body and mind health.*

Saturate Your Cells With Fatty15

The information you’ve had about saturated fat? It may be a little outdated. Thankfully, the world is starting to understand that not all saturated fats are bad, and some like fatty15 are essential for your health.

Sources:

Revealed: many common omega-3 fish oil supplements are ‘rancid’|The Guardian

Oxidized fish oil in rat pregnancy causes high newborn mortality and increases maternal insulin resistancJournals.Physiology.org

The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between - Harvard Health

Monounsaturated Fat | American Heart Association

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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