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Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids

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Fatty acids are the building blocks of lipids that can be made by both animals and plants. There are two form of these acids known as essential fatty acids and nonessential fatty acids, depending on how these chemicals are obtained. According to Rudin and Felix (1996), the fatty acids we humans can make are called nonessential fatty acids because we do not have to get them from the food we eat. In comparison, essential fatty acids are those that can only be obtained from diet.

Fatty acids are an important component of lipids which consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that are arranged in a linear carbon chain skeleton, with variable length and a carboxyl group at one end. Fatty acids are represented by a general formula, CH3-(CH3) ????-OOH (Athithan et, al., 2012). Classification of fatty acids are based on the chain length; short chain fatty acid (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA), long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) and very-long chain fatty acid (VLCFA) and depending on the degree of saturation either double bonds are presented or absent. According to Kelly and Ching (2008), fatty acids can be saturated (no double bond), monounsaturated (one double bond), or polyunsaturated (two or more double bonds).

Saturated Fatty Acids

Most of the saturated fatty acids occurring in nature have unbranched structures with an even number of carbon atoms (Ching, 2008). Fats that are made up of saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are solid at room temperature. SFAs can be further grouped into either short- or long- chain fatty acids depending on the number of carbon atoms presented in the chain. SFAs is denoted as CN:M; C is designated for carbon, N is for the number of carbon atoms and M represents the number of double bonds presented in the chain. Examples of saturated fatty acids are Butyric acid (C4:0), Capronic acid (C6:0), Palmitic acid (C16:0) and Stearic acid (C18:0).

Unsaturated Fatty Acid

Unsaturated fatty acid (UFA) can be either monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) or polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). The difference between these two UFA is the number of double bond presented in the carbon chain According to Jonak and Fialova (n.d), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) has one double bond and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) has more than one double bond.

Oleic acid or Omega-9 is an example of MUFA. Diets rich in oleic acid improved the participants’ fasting plasma glucose, insulin sensitivity and blood circulation (Richardson, 2017). Oleic acid can be found widely in nature and the highest sources of oleic acid are avocados, olive oils and canola oil.

Two PUFAs families, n-6 and n-3 fatty acids (FA), are physiologically and metabolically distinct (Danijela et. al., 2013). For Omega-6, the location is between the 6th and 7th carbon atom from the methyl end of the fatty acids whereas for Omega-3, the location is between the 3rd and 4th carbon atom from the methyl end of the fatty acids. According to Guesnet et. al., (2005), The consumption of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in equilibrated proportions could be crucial in the regulation of cellular physiology and in the prevention of pathologies such as cardiovascular, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, diabetes and obesity, certain neuropsychiatric affections, etc.

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Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids. (2019, January 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from
“Saturated and Unsaturated Fatty Acids.” GradesFixer, 15 Jan. 2019,
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