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Lipids: the basics

Dernière mise à jour : 23 sept. 2020


Lipids, molecules that are not soluble in water, can be derived from both plant and animal sources. They inlcude fats, oils, waxes as well as certain vitamins and hormones.

Lipids are major components of the human body where they play many essential roles in human health. In the human body lipids can be categorized into three main categories based on their functions:

1. Storage lipids: store energy

2. Structural lipids: are fundamental structural components of cells

3. Other lipids: play several diverse and very important roles depending on their chemical structure


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Lipids have various roles and they are involved in numerous chemical reactions in the human body including the following:

  • They account for nearly 60% of the brain’s dry weight and are responsible for the brain’s integrity and ability to perform

  • Fatty acids, a member of the lipids family, are fundamental building blocks of retinal tissue and all cell membranes often constituting more than 50% of their mass.

  • They are structural components of many essential molecules including vitamins, hormones, cholesterol and prostaglandins which are molecules involved in blood clotting and inflammatory response

  • They produce and store energy nergy storage and production

  • They are necessary for digestion and absorption

  • They serve as chemical messengers

  • They are necessary for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)

  • They are responsible for insulation and maintenance of normal body temperature

  • They protect vital body organs from sudden movements or outside impacts

  • They are necessary for healthy skin


Different types of lipids have different structures and accordingly play different roles in the body. Some of the more familiar ones include:


  1. Triglycerides: Why do they matter?

  2. Khan Academy: Overview of lipids, covering fats & oils, saturated & unsaturated fats, triglycerides, phospholipids, steroids.

  3. Phospholipids.

  4. Cooper GM, The Cell: A Molecular Approach. 2nd edition; Structure of the plasma membrane. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2000

  5. Dr Ananya Manda, Lipid Biological Functions

  6. What are the Functions of Lipid Steroids?

  7. Dr. Barry Sears: ‘’Omega Rx Zone’’; Regan Books, Harpertorch, HarperCollins Publishers 2002

  8. SFGate: Three Functions of Fat in The Body

  9. Gene Bruno; Essential & Non-Essential Fatty Acids. Huntington college of Health Sciences 2005: Literature Education Series On Dietary Supplements

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