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What Are the Different Types of Fatty Acids?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson

For decades we have heard that fat was the bad guy; the ingredient that was making our hearts unhealthy and adding extra inches to our waistline. Since the mid-1970s, we’ve been avoiding fat in an attempt to improve our health. 

Unfortunately, our health is steadily declining, not improving. What gives? 

The secret lies in knowing a little more about fats and how they break down into fatty acids. As it turns out, not all fats are bad fats. Some fats, in fact, are important to keeping our bodies functioning properly.

Let’s break down what we know about fatty acids and how they work in our bodies to determine whether or not we should be including more or less of them in our diets. 

What’s The Big Deal With Fatty Acids?

Even though we’ve spent an entire generation avoiding fat, we know now that some fats (like omega-3 fatty acids) are important for us. The problem is, we’ve only scratched the surface of information about fatty acids and how they work in our bodies. 

When we eat fats, they are broken down into fatty acids which are then absorbed by the blood. These acids are usually joined together in molecules. These molecules are called triglycerides because they are typically found in groups of three. 

Whether or not these molecules are hydrogenated (bonded with a hydrogen atom) will determine whether the molecule of fat is saturated or unsaturated.

Essentially, there are two different types of fatty acids: saturated and unsaturated. Let’s look a little more closely at each and how they affect our bodies and which ones deserve a place at our dinner tables.

Four Different Types of Fatty Acids

There are two different classifications of fatty acids (saturated and unsaturated), but within those two classifications, there are different types. Let’s look at each one and how they affect your overall health. 

Trans Fat

Trans fats are saturated fats, but they aren’t saturated naturally. They are saturated through the process of hydrogenating unsaturated oils. This process converts liquid oils to solid fats that can then be added to foods. 

Generally, this is added to processed baked goods to add shelf life to their products. You’ll find these types of fats in pre-packaged baked goods like snack cakes, chips, and cookies. Studies support that trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, so it’s best to avoid including them in your diet.

It doesn’t appear that trans fats offer any redeeming health benefit, which means you should only include them in your diet sparingly, if at all.


Monounsaturated fats are unsaturated fats that have one unsaturated carbon bond. These types of fats are typically liquid at room temperature but convert to solid when they are chilled. These fats can be beneficial in small portions, as they generally contain vitamin E, an essential vitamin the body needs. 

Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods and vegetable oils, like: 

  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Avocados
  • Nuts

Although these fats can be beneficial for you and support your heart health, too much is detrimental and associated with negative health markers. It’s important to make sure you only eat within recommended guidelines. 


Polyunsaturated fats are the most studied fats, likely because the omega-3’s are in this class. The omega-3’s were discovered by a husband and wife team more than 90 years ago. Although it was known that these fats were important for our health, the fat-free dietary guidelines of the 1970s caused most of us to take in much less in our diets than was necessary. 

Polyunsaturated fats have more than one unsaturated carbon atom. Like monounsaturated fats, these too are liquid at room temperature and solid when slightly chilled. 

Sources of polyunsaturated fats are:

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Flaxseed oil

Polyunsaturated fats are also found in fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines, as well as in olive oil. These fats are also a rich source of vitamin E, making them more beneficial to our bodies.

These fats contribute to heart health, but consuming too much, like other fats, can have negative health impacts. 

Saturated Fats

Your first reaction to saturated fats is likely that they are bad. We’ve been told for years that saturated fats are not healthful and lead to heart disease. 

However, it turns out, not all saturated fats are bad. In fact, there are two specific, very different types of saturated fats, and one of them may be the key to leading a healthier lifestyle with better nutrition:* 

  • Even-chain saturated fats. Even chain saturated fats are characterized by having an even number of hydrogenated carbon atoms. These saturated fats are associated with inflammation, heart disease, and type II diabetes. 
  • Odd-chain saturated fats. Odd chain saturated fats are characterized by having an odd number of hydrogenated carbon atoms. These saturated fats, however, have a different effect on our health. They are associated with positive health markers, like heart health, a healthy metabolism, red blood cell health, and liver health.

The problem is, both even chain and odd chain saturated fats often cohabitate in the same foods, such as coconut oil and palm oil. It can be difficult to eat the proper amount of odd-chain saturated fats that you need without consuming too much of the even-chain saturated fats. 

Thankfully, there’s now a solution. 

Pentadecanoic Acid

One such odd-chain saturated fatty acid is pentadecanoic acid, also known as C15:0. Admittedly, the discovery of this fatty acid and its benefits wasn’t focused on the human body in the beginning. 

It began with two populations of dolphins. One population, group A, consistently outlived the second population, group B. Group A also had a much lower occurrence of age-related diseases. As researchers began to explore the differences in these populations, it was discovered that group A was fed a diet of fish that contained C15:0.

It was then that scientists realized they needed to explore the possibility that this fatty acid could be beneficial to humans, too.

Benefits of C15:0

A growing body of research supports pentadecanoic acid as the first essential fatty acid to have been discovered since the omegas. The benefits of C15:0 have a significant impact on the cells in your body, the very foundation of the systems that keep you healthy. 

Unlike the omegas, pentadecanoic acid is a sturdy acid that helps keep your cells fortified and protected from external stressors. C15:0 helps boost your cells’ function so that your organs and systems are supported as you age:* 

  • Aging cell support. As we age, our cells become weak and fragile. Cell membranes become flimsy and can put cells at risk of exposure from outside factors. C15:0 dives deep into cell walls, fortifying them and keeping them protected. 
  • Mitochondria support. Getting older means that the powerhouses of your cells, the mitochondria, begin to slow down and lose their function. C15:0 increases mitochondrial function by up to 45%, improving cellular metabolism and keeping your body functioning at top speed. 
  • Heart support. Unlike the omegas, however, you only need a small dose of pentadecanoic acid to support your heart health every day. 

Differences Between Pentadecanoic Acid and the Omegas

Why not just stick with omega-3’s if you want to take a healthy fat supplement? There are a few reasons:

1. Omega-3 requires a large dose. A recommended dose of omega-3 each day is 2000-3000 mg. That’s a lot of fatty acid! The recommended daily dose of C15:0 is just 100mg per day. 

2. Omega-3 is a flimsy fatty acid. It isn’t able to provide the cellular support that C15:0 can, simply because it’s weaker in structure. C15:0 helps keep your cells better protected as they age. 

3. Omega-3 supplements can have a really fishy aftertaste. Most omega-3 supplements are derived from fish oil. While this is a viable source of the fatty acid, it’s not without side effects. Omega-3 supplements can give you a bad, fishy aftertaste and cause “fish burps,” even if you buy a “burpless” formula. 

4. Omega-3 supplements have numerous ingredients. Some supplements contain preservatives to increase their shelf life. Wouldn’t it be better to just take one ingredient; the one you need? We sure think so. 

    Fatty15 for Cellular Health

    Fatty15 is the only supplement to offer you 100mg of pure FA15™, the pure powder, vegan-friendly version of C15:0. Just one simple capsule per day can give you the heart-healthy benefits that you want, without any of the fishy ingredients (or aftertaste) you don’t. 

    Because pentadecanoic acid is only found in small amounts in foods like whole dairy products and some fish, it would be virtually impossible for you to get the amount you need each day without also consuming too much of the even-chain saturated fat you don’t want. 

    The choice is yours, but for us, we’ll take the fish-free option. 



    Dietary Fatty Acids - American Family Physician 

    Trans Fats|heart.org 

    MUFAs: Why should my diet include these fats?|Mayo Clinic.org
    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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