We Can Be Better: The Why Behind The Fatty15 vs. Omega-3 Ad Campaign
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
- Our co-founders discovered what may very well be the most essential of essential nutrients. It's called C15:0.
- Fatty15 was developed as a pure powder, sustainable, science-backed and vegan-friendly C15:0 supplement to support your long-term health and wellness.
- The current "We Can be Better" campaign believes that we can and should leverage 21st century science to be better than supplements borne from the 19th century.
You may have seen our latest ads comparing fatty15 to omega-3 supplements and wondered, “What is this all about?” To learn about our story behind our We Can Be Better campaign, read on!
An Unexpected Discovery
Back in 2015, our co-founder and veterinary epidemiologist, Dr. Steph Venn-Watson, was searching for which nutrients in an all-fish diet helped super-smart dolphins live their longest, healthiest lives possible. While Steph and her team thought omega-3s would certainly be on top of the healthy-nutrients-from-fish list, an advanced technology called metabolomics revealed that the healthiest nutrient in fish appeared to be C15:0, which is an odd-chain saturated fatty acid. Unexpectedly, omega-3s did not make the list.
A Scientific Deep-Dive
For the next 5 years, Steph and Eric, a wife-husband and veterinarian-physician team, hunkered down to understand how and why C15:0 is essential to protecting our whole-body health - all the way down to our cellular building blocks. They learned the following:*
- C15:0 is an active and beneficial nutrient that nurtures our cells by strengthening cell membranes and repairing mitochondrial function.
- C15:0 naturally activates key receptors throughout our body, called PPARs alpha and delta, that regulate our immunity and metabolism.
- C15:0 helps our bodies make a metabolite called PDC, which naturally activates receptors throughout our body and brain that can improve sleep, calm mood, support brain health, and improve joint comfort.
Steph and Eric spent another 3 years learning how much C15:0 we routinely need, which forms of C15:0 are most bioavailable, and developed a > 99% pure, sustainable, stable and vegan-friendly C15:0 powder that didn’t require harvesting fish from the ocean.
The result? Science-backed, award-winning fatty15 to support your long-term health and wellness, with 2 out of 3 people feeling benefits within weeks. Read more about how fatty15 is improving people’s lives every day.
Fatty15 Went Head-to-Head Against Omega-3
Since dolphins told us that C15:0 was a more beneficial fish nutrient than omega-3s, fatty15 went head-to-head against the purest, highest-performing omega-3 (EPA) in a rigorous series of studies. This included testing both fatty15 and EPA for cellular health benefits across 12 different human cell systems and 148 clinically-relevant biomarkers.
In these studies, the pure C15:0 ingredient in fatty15 had 26+ more cellular benefits than omega-3, repaired 83% of cell types (versus 33% with EPA), and was safe for all 12 cell types at all doses. In comparison, EPA was not safe for 33% of cell systems at the highest dose. To learn more about this peer-reviewed publication, click here.
A Need to Revisit Fish Oil Supplements
As the scientific support for C15:0’s health benefits continue to grow, the supportive science around fish oil supplements is waning. To better understand why 21st century science is well set for improving upon 19th century fish oil supplements, it helps to know just how fish oil supplements got started.
The History of Omega-3 Supplements
- It all started during the 1850s, when cod liver oil was used to treat severe vitamin D deficiencies and rickets. Cod liver oil was used during the Industrial Revolution in Britain to help treat severe vitamin D deficiencies and the associated disease, rickets, in children who had little exposure to sunlight. At that time, a Norwegian pharmacist named Peter Moller created a less-smelly cod liver oil by making a fish slurry, heating it, and extracting the oil that rose to the top. This resulted in the first marketed fish oil supplements.
- Then, during the 1920s, a team concluded that an omega-3 fatty acid in butter was responsible for healthy hair and skin health in baby mice. With the goal of figuring out which fats in milk were most important for neonatal development, George and Mildred Burr discovered that baby mice were healthy, as long as they received concentrated butter. Because this butterfat had relatively high levels of alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3), they concluded that omega-3 fatty acids can be essential.
- Finally, during the 1960s and 1970s, it was discovered that Inuits, who had marine-based diets, had less heart disease than the general public. Here, the researchers concluded that, because Inuits had higher levels of two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, compared to the general population, that EPA and DHA in fish oil reduced the risk of heart disease. This resulted in the booming fish oil supplement industry that exists today.
In summary, what started as a relatively easy and crude way of using oil from fish livers to treat severe vitamin D deficiencies in the 1850s, has little changed for today’s fish oil supplements. What has changed, however, is the science supporting what fish oil supplements can and can’t do.
What We Know About Fish Oil Supplements Today
Unfortunately, they are not as beneficial as we once thought. Hundreds (and hundreds) of fish oil studies have been conducted by research teams throughout the world, and the current consensus from the National Institute of Health is as follows:
- Fish oil supplements do not appear to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Fish oil supplements at high doses may help to reduce triglyceride levels. These high doses, however, are not recommended by the FDA.
- Fish oil supplements may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- For most other conditions, the evidence is either inconclusive or does not support health benefits of fish oil supplements.
In the largest placebo-controlled clinical trial to date, marine omega-3 supplements taken daily for 5 years by older adults did not significantly reduce their risk of developing heart disease, depression or mood disorders, frailty, autoimmune disease, dry eye disease, or cognitive decline.
Additionally, fish oil supplements vary greatly in quality. Fish oil supplements inherently have high variability in content and quality, including the following factors:
- Lipid peroxidation. Fish oils are highly unstable and particularly susceptible to oxidation, both in the bottle and our bodies. This process is what causes fish oil supplements to go rancid and smell fishy. In one study, as many as 1 in 2 bottles of fish oil supplements had measurable levels of oxidation.
- High variability in fish oil content. Because fish oil supplements are marine oils that contain more than just good fatty acids, the content of these oils can be highly variable. In one study, 1 in 10 bottles of fish oil supplements had less omega-3s than stated on the bottles.
- Contaminants. Fish are exposed to and concentrate ocean-based contaminants in their fat. Because of this, fish oil supplements can contain mercury, lead, and arsenic. Exposure to contaminants is one reason why the FDA limits how much fish and omega-3 fish oil supplements people should consume. Specifically, the FDA recommends that daily intake of omega-3 not exceed 3 g/day of EPA and DHA combined, with no more than 2 g/day derived from supplements.
- Impact on ocean life. Millions of tons of fish and krill are harvested each year to support the omega-3 supplement industry. Due to the negative impacts of harvested krill on penguins, seals, and whales, there have been calls to ban omega-3 krill oil supplements.
But wait - I have heard about so many studies touting omega-3 and EPA health benefits. Are you saying that they are all wrong?
Not at all. Science 1) linking omega-3s to better health and 2) showing that fish oil supplements have little health benefit can both be correct. Here’s how:
- Eating fish is beneficial. Studies support that eating 2 to 3 servings of fish per week, as part of a healthy eating pattern, can offer long-term health benefits, including better heart health.
- Associations between higher omega-3 blood levels and better health may reflect the benefits of eating a diet with more fish. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher omega-3 blood levels have better long-term health. Because people who eat more fish are healthier, and these benefits have not been overwhelmingly found among omega-3 supplement takers, these studies suggest that omega-3 blood levels may simply be biomarkers of healthier people who eat more fish.
- Cell-based studies that demonstrate omega-3 benefits typically use pure EPA, not fish or algae oils. A good number of studies have shown that omega-3s, including EPA or DHA, have relevant and beneficial cell-based activities, including lower inflammation. These studies, however, typically use pure forms of EPA or DHA in the laboratory versus mixed oils that are present in fish oil supplements.
- Prescription-strength EPA (without DHA) does appear to have health benefits. An extensive randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that a prescription form of the purest EPA formulation, which excludes DHA, reduced the risk of death from heart disease. The quality of this form of EPA, however, is highly controlled and very different from fish oil supplements.
The bottom line? The latest science supports that eating fish 2 to 3 times a week or taking a prescribed, pure EPA drug can improve your health. Taking fish oil supplements, however, do not appear to provide similar long-term benefits.
Our Why behind the Current Campaign
So, yep. Our ads were made to get your attention. Thanks for reading through this blog explaining our Why behind our We Can Be Better campaign.
Given the rapidly developing science summarized above, we at fatty15 are on a mission to be Better on the inside. Better on the outside. Better than what came before. We hope this will inspire you to become part of our movement and spread the word about the breakthrough discovery that is fatty15.
Check out our TEDx-worthy origin story and why Fast Company listed us as a 2022 World Changing Idea.
Stay tuned, because we’re only getting started. We know that science doesn’t stand still, and what’s better today can be even better tomorrow. We can’t ever be finished, because we can always be better.
Save the dolphins (and fish), save the world!
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
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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