What is Fat?

In nutrition, biology, and chemistry, fat refers to any ester of fatty acids, or a mixture of such compounds, most commonly found in living beings or food.

Triglycerides (triple esters of glycerol) are the primary constituents of vegetable oils and animal fatty tissue; or, to put it another way, triglycerides that are solid or semisolid at room temperature, excluding oils. The word can also be used as a synonym for lipid, which refers to any biologically important material made up of carbon, hydrogen, or oxygen that is insoluble in water but soluble in non-polar solvents.

Apart from triglycerides, the word may also include mono- and diglycerides, phospholipids (such as lecithin), sterols (such as cholesterol), waxes (such as beeswax), and free fatty acids, which are generally found in smaller quantities in the human diet.

Saturated Fat

What is Saturated Fat?

Saturated fat is a form of fat in which all or most of the fatty acid chains are single bonds. Glycerol and fatty acids are the two types of smaller molecules that make up fat. Long chains of carbon (C) atoms make up fats. Single bonds (-C-C-) attach certain carbon atoms, while double bonds (-C=C-) connect others. Single bonds may be formed when double bonds react with hydrogen. Since the second bond is broken and each half of the bond is bound to (saturated with) a hydrogen atom, they are called saturated.

Since saturated fats have higher melting points than unsaturated fats, it's common knowledge that saturated fats are solids at room temperature, while unsaturated fats are liquids of varying degrees of viscosity.

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Unsaturated Fats

Unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds between hydrogen and carbon. The term unsaturated refers to a molecule with less than the maximum number of hydrogen atoms bound to each carbon. The generic name indicates the number of double bonds—monounsaturated for molecules with one double bond and polyunsaturated for molecules with two or more double bonds.

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Monounsaturated Fat

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) have a single double bond, whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have two or more double bonds. Even on the same molecule, natural fats typically contain several different saturated and unsaturated acids. Many vegetable oils, for example, have saturated palmitic and stearic acid residues attached to positions 1 and 3 (sn1 and sn3) of the glycerol hub, whereas the middle position (sn2) is normally held by an unsaturated one, such as oleic.

Polyunsaturated Fat

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (fatty acids with more than one carbon-carbon double bond) are present in small quantities. Multiple double bonds are almost always separated by a CH2 group, a regular spacing motif resulting from the biosynthetic mechanism that introduces the double bonds into the hydrocarbon chain.

Cis -Trans Polyunsaturated Fat

The cis-trans isomerism, or the spatial arrangement of the C–C single bonds adjacent to the double bonds, is another important classification of unsaturated fatty acids. In nature, most unsaturated fatty acids have certain bonds in the cis ("same side") of configuration.

Trans Polyunsaturated

While trans polyunsaturated fatty acids are not generated biosynthetically by mammals, they are produced synthetically by partial hydrogenation of fats and oils in the manufacture of margarine by microorganisms in the guts of ruminant animals such as cows and goats (the so-called trans fats). Ingestion of trans fats has been shown to have negative metabolic effects.

Let’s see now the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats.

Saturated VS Unsaturated Fat

Saturated Fats

Unsaturated Fats

Contains a single bond.

Contains at least one double bond.

Not to consume more than 10 percent of total calories per day.

Not to consume more than 30 percent of total calories per day.

Excessive consumption leads to heart diseases.

Good for consumption, but excessive may increase cholesterol.

Increases low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which is called bad cholesterol.

Increases High-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is commonly known as good cholesterol, and also reduces low-density lipoproteins (LDL).

Would not spoil quickly.

Spoil quickly.

Food sources of saturated fats are whole milk, butter, cheese, margarine, coconut oil, vegetable oil, meat, peanut, fried foods, etc.

Food sources of unsaturated fats are walnuts, flax, avocado, sunflower oil, soybean oil, fish oil, canola oil, red meat, etc.

High melting point.

Low melting point.

Solid-state at room temperature.

Liquid state at room temperature.

Saturated Fat Good or Bad

Since it transfers cholesterol to your liver to be expelled from your body, HDL is known as "healthy cholesterol." HDL aids in the removal of extra cholesterol from the body, making it less possible for it to clog the arteries.

LDL is known as "poor cholesterol" because it transports cholesterol to the arteries, where it can build up in the walls of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is an accumulation of plaque in the arteries caused by too much cholesterol. Blood clots in the arteries are more likely as a result of this. A stroke or heart attack may occur when a blood clot breaks free and blocks an artery in your heart or brain.

Did You Know?

Fats are important for keeping skin and hair healthy, as well as insulating body organs from shock, maintaining body temperature, and promoting healthy cell function. Fat also acts as a protective barrier against a variety of diseases. When a chemical or biotic material reaches dangerously high levels in the bloodstream, the body can effectively dilute—or at least preserve the equilibrium of—the offending substance by storing it in fresh fat tissue.

Adipose tissue, also known as fatty tissue, is the body's way of storing metabolic energy for long periods of time in animals. Adipocytes (fat cells) are fat storage cells that store fat from the diet and liver metabolism. These cells can degrade their stored fat to supply fatty acids and glycerol to the circulation when they are under energy stress. Several hormones regulate these metabolic activities (e.g., insulin, glucagon, and epinephrine). The hormone leptin is also produced by adipose tissue.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What Does Fat Mean?

Ans: The body uses fat as a fuel source, and fat is the body's primary energy storage medium. Fat serves a variety of other roles in the body, and a moderate amount is needed for good health. Saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats are all types of fat found in food. 

2. What is an Unsaturated Triglyceride?

Ans: Unsaturated fats are made up of triglycerides with one or more carbon-carbon double bonds in their carbon chains. Unsaturated fat is commonly thought to be better than saturated fat because it has fewer calories than saturated fat.

3. Can Triglycerides Be Unsaturated?

Ans: Triglycerides are lipid compounds made up of glycerol esterified to three different lengths and structure fatty acid chains. The chemical composition of these fatty acid chains varies, and they may be saturated or unsaturated.