If you’re looking for a reason to stay active and eat a nutritious diet as you age, you don’t need to look far. Increased energy, reduced risk of chronic disease, and better mental health are just a few of many benefits to be had—but keeping your heart healthy may top the list.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people 65 and older are at a significantly increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. That’s why a new supplement that promises to boost your heart health is cause for celebration. Read on to find out what it is, and why experts say taking it could potentially add years to your life.
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Pentadecanoic acid, also called C15:0, is an essential fatty acid—but your body doesn’t produce it on its own. We need to get C15:0 through food or supplements to stay healthy. Unfortunately, most food sources of pentadecanoic acid also contain high amounts of saturated fats that are associated with poor heart health and cardiovascular disease, according to a 2021 study published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.
“While we have long been told to avoid all saturated fats, it’s now known that there are good and bad saturated fats,” says Stephanie Venn-Watson, co-founder and CEO of Seraphina Therapeutics. “Numerous studies have shown that people with higher levels of C15:0 have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and fatty liver disease.”
Saturated fats are considered “good” or “bad” depending on how your body metabolizes them. Venn-Watson explains, “Odd-chain saturated fats, like C15:0, are metabolized into propionic acid, which supports healthy metabolism and energy production. Conversely, even-chain saturated fats are metabolized into acetoacetic acid, which can promote a pro- diabetes and cardiovascular injury-prone state.”
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C15:0 (also called pentadecanoic acid) is the first essential fatty acid discovered since omega-3 came on the scene more than 90 years ago. This odd-chain saturated fatty acid is found primarily in whole-fat dairy products such as milk and butter. However, trace amounts can also be found in some fish and plants.
“Underlying chronic inflammation is a key driver of heart disease, especially as we age,” says Venn-Watson. “C15:0 is better than the purest and highest performing omega-3 (EPA) at reducing multiple clinically-relevant drivers of cardiovascular inflammation,” she explains, adding that “people with higher circulating C15:0 levels have a lower risk of developing heart disease and heart failure.”
Omega-3s are essential for a healthy heart, but there’s one problem: omega-3s can go rancid due to a flaw in their molecular structure. Because omega-3s are less stable than C15:0, half of the omega-3 supplements that come in oil form have been found to have some level of rancidity, says a 2020 study published in Advances in Therapy.
“Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids that contain multiple double bonds, making them particularly susceptible to oxidation,” explains Venn-Watson. “This is why omega-3 supplements come in oil form and have a short shelf-life.”
Venn-Watson adds that omega-3s can also oxidize in our bodies, causing inflammation that damages cells. C15:0, however, comes in a powder form that’s substantially more stable, less prone to oxidation, and has a longer shelf life.
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The three primary omega-3 fatty acids—alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—are often touted for their many health benefits. Both omega-3s and C15:0 protect your heart and brain by reducing inflammation. However, C15:0 is more effective than omega-3s in the fight against inflammation, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
“[C15:0 has] multiple benefits over omega-3s that protect against atherosclerosis and vascular inflammation, as well as asthma, allergies, arthritis, lung disease, and metabolic diseases,” Venn-Watson states. “C15:0 has been shown to stabilize cell membranes and protect cells against oxidative stress, especially as we age. This stability…explains why people with higher C15:0 levels have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases and may even live longer.”
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