What are fats and lipids? What are their advantages and disadvantages?



Fats are esters of long chain fatty acids and an alcohol called glycerol. The fats are actually made up of three elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Fats are one of the three main macronutrients along with carbohydrate and protein. 

Every fat molecule consists of three molecules of a fatty acid and one molecule of glycerol. Fats are the members of a heterogeneous group of organic compounds known as lipids. The main function of fats in the body is to provide a steady source of energy.

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There are two types of fats saturates and unsaturated fats. Some fats are in solid state while others are liquid. For example butter and ghee are in solid state whereas ground-nut oil and mustard oil are in liquid form. 

Fats containing saturated fatty acids are solid at ordinary room temperature while fats containing unsaturated fatty acids are in liquid form (oils) at room temperature. Saturated fatty acids occur in animal fats, vanaspati ghee and butter. These fats have high melting point, so they are in solid form in room temperature. 

The unsaturated fats or oils have low melting point, so they are in liquid form at room temperature.

Fats are supplied to our body by many foods like butter, ghee, cheese, milk, egg-yolk, meat, pork, beef, nuts, ground nut, soyabean and many more. All the cooking oils (like ground nut oil, coconut oil) provide fats. The fats which we eat in our food or diet are called dietary fats.

The major fatty acid present in butter is butyric acid, major fatty acid present in coconut oil is octanoic acid, major fatty acids present in animal fat is stearic acid. the major fatty acid present in plant and fats or vegetables oils is oleic acid.

Advantages of fats – Fats provide more energy because fat molecules contain higher percentage of carbon and hydrogen but less percentage of oxygen than that of carbohydrates. A fat molecule requires more oxygen for combustion of carbon and hydrogen and hence produces more energy. 

Apart from supplying energy, fat also help in forming the structure materials of cells and tissues such as cell membranes and other organelle components. Dietry fats are essential to give body energy and to support cell growth, they protect body organs and keep body warm. Fat helps body to absorb vitamin A, D and E because they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.

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Disadvantages of fats – Eating food rich in trans fats increases the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood stream and reduces beneficial HDL cholesterol. The increase of LDL cholesterol increases risk of heart diseases and stroke.

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Further trans fats redistribute fat tissue into abdomen leading to higher body weight. Also the research suggests that eating trans and saturated fats on regular basis may increase risk of cancer in prostate, colon and rectum.


Lipids are a large group of organic compounds which are oily and insoluble in water. It includes fatty acids, oils, waxes, sterols and triglycerides.

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Lipids may also be defined as a group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. The main function of lipids is storing energy. The categories of lipids are fatty acids, glycerol lipids, glycerophospho lipids, sphingo lipids, sterol lipids, prenol lipids, saccharo lipids, and polyketides.

Advantages of lipids – Lipids are stored in tissues and are one of major energy source compared to carbohydrates and proteins. They also play important roles in our body from providing energy to producing hormones. Lipids help in digestion and absorption of food properly. Lipids are also useful to insulate and protect body. A layer of fat below the skin helps to keep internal body temperature regular. Bile acids produced from lipids in the lever allow fat and water to mix in intestines and aid in absorption of food.

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Disadvantages of lipids – Saturated fats (a kind of lipids) found in animal meats, butter and full fat dairy can raise the risk of developing heart disease. These fats of taken regularly in excess elevate bad cholesterol levels and decrease good cholesterol levels.

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Consuming too many high lipid foods throughout the day increases total caloric intake which affects the risk of weight gain and further stresses our heart.

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