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Medicine LibreTexts

5: Lipids

  • Page ID
    6792
  • In this chapter, we look at the types, structure, and roles of lipids, and we explain the different types of cholesterol in the blood. We also explore topics of interest such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and trans fats.

    • 5.1: Introduction to Lipids
      Lipids are important molecules that serve different roles in the human body. A common misconception is that fat is simply fattening. However, fat is probably the reason we are all here. Throughout history, there have been many instances when food was scarce. Our ability to store excess caloric energy as fat for future usage allowed us to continue as a species during these times of famine. So, normal fat reserves are a signal that metabolic processes are efficient and a person is healthy.
    • 5.2: The Functions of Lipids in the Body
      The excess energy from the food we eat is digested and incorporated into adipose tissue, or fatty tissue. Most of the energy required by the human body is provided by carbohydrates and lipids.
    • 5.3: The Role of Lipids in Food
      Fat-rich foods naturally have a high caloric density. Foods that are high in fat contain more calories than foods high in protein or carbohydrates. As a result, high-fat foods are a convenient source of energy. For example, 1 gram of fat or oil provides 9 kilocalories of energy, compared with 4 kilocalories found in 1 gram of carbohydrate or protein. Depending on the level of physical activity and on nutritional needs, fat requirements vary greatly from person to person.
    • 5.4: How Lipids Work
      Lipids are unique organic compounds, each serving key roles and performing specific functions within the body. As we discuss the various types of lipids (triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols) in further detail, we will compare their structures and functions and examine their impact on human health.
    • 5.5: Nonessential and Essential Fatty Acids
      Fatty acids are vital for the normal operation of all body systems. The circulatory system, respiratory system, integumentary system, immune system, brain, and other organs require fatty acids for proper function. The body is capable of synthesizing most of the fatty acids it needs from food. These fatty acids are known as nonessential fatty acids. However, there are some fatty acids that the body cannot synthesize and these are called essential fatty acids.
    • 5.6: Digestion and Absorption of Lipids
      Lipids are large molecules and generally are not water-soluble. Like carbohydrates and protein, lipids are broken into small components for absorption. Since most of our digestive enzymes are water-based, how does the body break down fat and make it available for the various functions it must perform in the human body?
    • 5.7: Tools for Change
      Being conscious of the need to reduce cholesterol means limiting the consumption of saturated fats and trans fats. Remember that saturated fats found in some meat, whole-fat dairy products, and tropical oils elevate your total cholesterol. Trans fats, such as the ones often found in margarines, processed cookies, pastries, crackers, fried foods, and snack foods also elevate your cholesterol levels.
    • 5.8: Lipids and the Food Industry
      What is the first thing that comes to mind when you read ingredients such as “partially hydrogenated oil” and “hydrogenated oil” on a food label? Do you think of heart disease, heart health, or atherosclerosis? Most people probably do not. As we uncover what hydrogenation is and why manufacturers use it, you will be better equipped to adhere to healthier dietary choices and promote your heart health.
    • 5.9: Lipids and Disease
      Because heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the three leading causes of death in the United States, it is critical to address dietary and lifestyle choices that will ultimately decrease risk factors for these diseases. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the following risk factors are controllable: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight, and obesity.
    • 5.10: A Personal Choice about Lipids
      On your next trip to the grocery store prepare yourself to read all food labels carefully and to seriously consider everything that goes into your shopping cart. Create a shopping list and divide your list into columns for “Best,” “Better,” “Good,” “Least Desirable,” and “Infrequent Foods.”