Lipids represent a term for a large number of compounds, including fats, oils, and phospholipids, that together share the unifying trait of being hydrophobic (hydrophobic means “water-hating”).
Despite their clear importance and essential functions, lipids have not been as well researched as proteins.
List Of 30 Interesting Facts About Lipids + Function & Types
1. Lipids are biological molecules that are insoluble in water, however, they are soluble in non-polar solvents.
2. Although the term is occasionally used as a synonym for fats, fats actually are a subgroup of lipids called triglycerides.
3. Lipids are one of the four main types of organic macromolecules (along with carbohydrates, proteins, and nucleic acids) necessary for life’s functioning.
4. Lipids contain hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen, however, they have far less oxygen proportionally than carbs.
5. Abnormal metabolism of lipids and lipoproteins has been strongly associated with a higher risk of various disorders, like type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.
6. Waxes are found in ear canals, leaves, and the beeswax which makes honeycomb. Waxes consist of a long-chain fatty acid linked through an ester oxygen to a long-chain alcohol. Waxes form a barrier to exclude water in both animals and plants. Waxes leave grease spots on paper and are soluble in the same solvents. Their melting point is above 45 °C.
7. Carotenoids are pigments that are used to help absorb light energy in algae, plants, and photosynthetic bacteria. Plants appear to produce carotenoids to protect their leaves and stems from the energy of the sun.
Example of carotenoids include:
8. Xanthophylls – they are a class of oxygen-containing carotenoid pigments which are responsible for the color of many of the orange, yellow, and red hues of:
- egg yolks;
- vegetables (pepper, corn);
- the flesh of many animal species (canary, flamingo, lobster, shrimp, salmonids, or chicken).
9. The xanthophylls include zeaxanthin, lutein, and astaxanthin.
10. Carotenes – they impart orange, yellow, or red colors to roots (sweet potato, carrot), fruits (pumpkin, mangoes, papayas, apricot), and flowers (marigold, dandelion). Carotenes are mostly converted into vitamin A in the wall of the intestine, however, some are absorbed unchanged.
11. Lycopene – it is a red, fat-soluble pigment that is found in many vegetables and fruits. Unlike carotene, lycopene cannot be converted in the human body into vitamin A. Scientists have found a strong link between lycopene intake and reduced risk of some types of cancers.
12. Steroids are a type of lipid which contains 4 rings of carbon atoms. They are widely distributed in animals, where they are linked with physiological processes. They are formed from cholesterol and are involved in cellular communication. The most common steroid is a component of cell membranes as well as it is needed for the proper function of nerve cells and is required to make both the female (estrogen) and male (testosterone) sex hormones.
13. Phospholipids are a type of fat which contains phosphorus. They form cell membranes and play an essential role in diffusion. Additionally, phospholipids have numerous functions in biological systems, such as:
- as surfactants;
- as signaling agents;
- as membrane structural elements;
- as fuels.
14. Fats store energy for cells and are a source of energy in the human diet. Fats are stored for energy in adipose tissue, they cushion and protect organs, and help to insulate the human body.
There are 5 types of fats:
15. Unsaturated fats – they are considered much better for you than saturated fats and are occasionally called “good” fats. These fats tend to come from foods such as almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, red kidney beans, white beans, avocados, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or flax seeds.
16. Saturated fats – they are occasionally called “bad” fats as they have been known to clog arteries, cause higher LDL and total cholesterol levels, and increase the risk for some forms of cancers. Saturated fats tend to come from foods such as red meat, cheese, milk, chocolate, and butter.
17. Unsaturated fats remain liquid at room temperature, whereas saturated fats remain solid at room temperature.
18. Partially hydrogenated fats – they contain high levels of trans fats, a type of fats that increases the risk of heart disease by lowering the HDL cholesterol and increasing the LDL cholesterol in your blood. Trans fats can be found in a variety of fried, “fast”, packaged, or processed foods, including:
- pie crust;
- cake mixes;
- hot dogs;
- French fries;
- onion rings;
- fried chicken;
- fried fish.
19. Polyunsaturated fats – they have more than one double-bonded carbon in the molecule. Oils which contain polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, however, they start to turn solid when chilled. They also provide essential nutrients such as vitamin E. In addition, these fats can help lower your LDL cholesterol.
20. Monounsaturated fats – they have one double-bonded carbon in the molecule. Oils that contain monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, however, they start to turn solid when chilled. There is some evidence that a regular diet rich in monounsaturated fats may help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. Like all fats, they contain 9 calories per gram and should be consumed in moderation.
21. Prostaglandins were discovered in human semen in 1935 by Ulf von Euler, a Swedish physiologist. They are produced as needed by cell membranes in every body tissue. Prostaglandins are derived enzymatically from the fatty acid arachidonic acid.
22. When tissue is infected or damaged, prostaglandins will create the reactions which cause fever, pain, and inflammation, that actually sparks the healing process. In addition, they are involved in regulating the relaxation and contraction of the muscles in the airways and gut.
23. Cholesterol is a waxy substance which is found in the lipids in your blood. You need cholesterol to help your skin, brain, and other organs do their jobs.
24. According to the data, your risk for heart disease is lower when you have low LDL cholesterol and low total cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is the fatty substance which is most related to arterial blockage.
25. An estimated 31 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL. Men are usually at a higher risk than women for higher cholesterol.
26. Regular physical exercise can reduce cholesterol by decreasing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
27. Palm oil, coconut oil, and palm kernel oil can trigger your liver to make more cholesterol.
28. The main biological functions of lipids include signaling, storing energy, and acting as components of cell membranes. They can form bonds to carbohydrates and proteins forming lipopolysaccharides and lipoproteins. Also, layers of fat in the subcutaneous layer provides protection from cold. Some lipids such as steroid hormones and prostaglandins (a group of lipids made at sites of tissue damage) act as cellular metabolic regulators.
29. Dyslipidemia is defined as having blood lipid levels which are too low or too high. The condition is a primary contributor to the development of coronary disease and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). High levels of triglycerides can cause acute pancreatitis (inflammation in the pancreas).
30. The ICD 10 code for elevated lipids is E78.5.