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Lipids: Fatty Acids, Sterols, and Triglycerides Explained

Oct 23, 2009

Known officially as lipids, fatty acids, fats and oils are insoluble in water. Some fats are good for you (fatty acids are good for maintaining proper health). The big difference in fats and oils are that oils stay liquid at room temperature, and fats stay solid at room temperature. Fats, known also as lipids, are a nutrient and include the following types.

Types of Fats

Triglycerides come in a variety of forms, both saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are found in animal food sources, while unsaturated fats are found in plant food sources. The more preferable of these two types of triglycerides are unsaturated fats. Your body can tolerate saturated fat as long as the rest of your diet is healthy.

Food sources, such as fats and oils, butter, meat, baked goods, dairy products, nuts and seeds, contain triglycerides. Some sources of omega-3 are soybean, canola, walnut, flaxseed oils, fish oils and salmon, tuna and mackerel.

Good and Bad Sterols

Sterols can have both good and bad effects on the human body. Cholesterol is the most common sterol, and if not kept in check, can cause problems in the cardiovascular system. Phytosterols are found in plant sources and have a healthy affect on the body. Sterols play important roles in the human body, such as creating sex hormones in both males and females, as well as the adrenal hormones.

Other roles of sterols are the creation of bile acids, which is essential to break down fats and absorb nutrients, and the creation of vitamin D. Because essential fatty acids do not manufacture on their own, they need to be consumed every day. There are two essential fatty acids (AKA – EFAs), omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3 comes from alpha linolenic acid (AKA – ALA) and is used to make cell walls supple, flexible and improve circulation. A deficiency in Omega-3 can cause health problems, such as mental problems, tingling in the fingers and impaired memory, just to name a few. Omega-6 comes from linoleic acid (AKA – LA) and used as anti-inflammatory properties: it improves skin conditions, PMS, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetic neuropathy.

EFAs main function is to produce prostaglandins, which regulate functions like heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and conception, and inflammation. It also encourages the body to fight infection.

Symptoms of a EFA Deficiency

Some classic symptoms of EFA deficiency include:

  • growth retardation
  • skin lesions
  • visual problems
  • kidney and liver diseases
  • reproductive failure
  • chronic intestinal disease
  • depression

The most noticeable symptoms of an ALA deficiency are skin disorders, such as scaly dermatitis or skin atrophy. These symptoms can show up anywhere on the body, but usually occur on the hands, shoulders, forearms and face (but when given the recommended amounts of EFAs, it will clear up in a matter of days).

Lipids, Fatty Acids, Sterols and Triglycerides taken in the recommended amounts, on a daily basis, keep our bodies healthy. A visit to your doctor for blood test will determine whether you have a deficiency. If your doctor finds a deficiency, he will prescribe the proper amount of supplements to help you get healthy and stay healthy.

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