Fats: Essential for Life

While it is true that fats have taken a beating in the media and are frowned upon for their negative biological impact, they are absolutely essential for life. I want to strongly reiterate here that it is not so much the quantity of fat we consume as what type of fats we eat. Lipids are considered a group of fats and fat-like compounds that are insoluble in water. Technically speaking, this category of macronutrients includes fats, fatty acids, oils, waxes, sterols, and esters of fatty acids. Much like carbohydrates, lipids are chemically comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They serve as a source of energy which is either 1) converted to other essential tissue components, 2) burned off, or 3) stored as fat in adipose tissue.
Triglycerides are considered the major form of fat and make up the majority of fat found in foods and in the body. What we need to know about triglycerides is that the length and degree of their saturation as chemical compounds determines the way they behave in the body. Fatty acids are chemically comprised of carbon atoms. If each carbon atom is connected to each of its hydrogen neighbors, it is called saturated. If two adjacent carbon atoms are linked in a double bond and could bind to additional hydrogens, the fat is called monosaturated. If more than one locality on a carbon chain is able to accept additional hydrogen atoms, the fat is called polyunsaturated. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and oleic acid is an example of a monounsaturated fatty acid.
An easy way to recognize some unsaturated fats is that they are usually more liquid at room temperature than a saturated fat. For example, sunflower oil, high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, is liquid at room temperature, while lard or butter, high in saturated fats, is solid.

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Updated on : 2/19/2012 6:18:52 PM
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