Chemical Structure

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Chemical Structure

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The chemical formula is CH2COOR-CHCOOR'-CH2-COOR", where R, R', and R" are long alkyl chains. The three fatty acids RCOOH, R'COOH and R"COOH can be all different, all the same, or only two the same.

Chain lengths of the fatty acids in naturally occurring triglycerides can be of varying lengths but 16, 18 and 20 carbons are the most common. Natural fatty acids found in plants and animals are typically composed only of even numbers of carbon atoms due to the way they are bio-synthesised from acetyl CoA. Bacteria, however, possess the ability to synthesise odd- and branched-chain fatty acids. Consequently, ruminant animal fat contains odd numbered fatty acids, such as 15, due to the action of bacteria in the rumen.

Most natural fats contain a complex mixture of individual triglycerides; because of this, they melt over a broad range of temperatures. Cocoa butter is unusual in that it is composed of only a few triglycerides, one of which contains palmitic, oleic and stearic acids in that order. This gives rise to a fairly sharp melting point, causing chocolate to melt in the mouth without feeling greasy.

In cells, triglyceride (also known as neutral fat) can pass through the cell membrane freely, unlike other molecules, because of its non-polar characteristic which doesn't react with the phospholipid bilayer membrane.

Recent research shows triglyceride levels are useful for indicating risk of coronary heart disease and linked with diabetes development.This article discusses how they affect risk and examines testing and treatment.

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Home > Circulation Problems > Chemical Structure

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