Fat is a heterogeneous group of compounds, which is one of the main constituents of food necessary to sustain the normal functions of the body, since they provide both energy and the essential molecules. Depending on the chemical structure, this group is broadly categorized in to saturated fat and unsaturated fat in which they have differences with regard to the atomic structure, source which they obtained from, physical and chemical properties. This article emphasizes on how saturated fat is different from other members of this group especially with unsaturated fat.
As mentioned above, fat is a large heterogeneous group of compounds. Fat plays a major role in the body rather than acting as an energy source. They are important in increasing the palatability of food, producing a feeling of satiety and absorption of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It provides essential nutrients to the body functions that either cannot synthesis by the body or cannot be synthesized at a rate sufficient to meet the demands for growth and maintenance. Among them, fat is one of the most important dietary components.
When considering the atomic structure it is mainly composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms with single or double bonds in between the carbon atoms. Depending on the presence of single or double bonds this group is categorized as saturated and non saturated fatty acids.
In the chemical structure of saturated fatty acids, the carbon atoms are fully saturated with hydrogen atoms and do not contain double bonds. The first member of this series is the acetic acid (CH3-COOH) on which the other members of this group are based upon by progressively adding –CH2- groups in between the terminals CH3- and –COOH groups. Propionic, butyric, valeric, caproic, lauric, myristic and palmitic are some of the examples of this group.
Saturated fatty acids are generally obtained from animal sources with the exception of fish, in which the fatty acids are largely unsaturated. In contrast, unsaturated fatty acids may be mono unsaturated, which includes olive oil and canola oil, or poly unsaturated, which includes corn oil and soya bean oil, all of which are plant sources with the exception of Coconut oil and palm oil consisting primarily of saturated fatty acids.
In general, unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature while the saturated fatty acids remain as solid. This property is used in many of the industrial processes such as in the production of margarine though it is from pure vegetables; it is subjected to varying degrees of hydration or saturation to make it more solid and stable as a spread.
Several studies have shown that they are not heart healthy and can cause increased cholesterol levels mainly low density lipoproteins. Therefore, the dietary goals are set to reduce in fat consumption to 30% of the total calories, particularly decreasing saturated fat.
What is the difference between Fat and Saturated Fat?
• Saturated fat is a sub category of the large group of fatty acids.
• In saturated fat, the carbon atoms are fully saturated with hydrogen atoms and do not contain double bonds in between carbon atoms, while the unsaturated fatty acid contains double bonds.
• The main source of saturated fat is the animal products, and unsaturated fat is the plant products with some exceptions.
• Saturated fat remains as solid in the room temperature while unsaturated fatty acids are liquids at room temperature.
• Saturated fatty acids are found to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases hence it is advised to reduce the dietary consumption.