Fatty Acids Explained [Light Reading]

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The human body needs fatty acids to function properly. Fatty acids are a group of compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They can be found in all organic molecules, including fats (vegetable oils), proteins and carbohydrates.

What Are Fatty Acids and Why We Need Them

Fatty acids combine carbon atoms with other elements, such as nitrogen or oxygen, to form polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The number of unsaturated bonds between pairs of carbons increases as one moves down a chain until only one remain. These chains are called polyenes. The next step up from this level would be saturated polyenes, where no more double bonds are possible. This is because they have already been broken by existing ones or created by adding additional single bonds on either side via dehydration synthesis or anomerization reactions. Molecules lose some water molecules when they combine with other substances during polymerization processes, like polymerization reactions used during cooking or cooling foods at room temperature. 

The simplest fatty acids are those with just one carbon atom between the carboxylate oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Still, there are many variations on this theme: for example, some have more than one double bond in the molecule (e.g., palmitic acid), while others have multiple double bonds within their structure (alpha-linolenic acid).

Fatty acids can be classified according to their position in the carbon backbone. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats tend to be located at the front positions. Monounsaturated fats such as oleic acid or linoleic acid sit behind them. Saturated fats like stearic acid or palmitic acid fill out the middle section of chains. Polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linolenic and arachidonic lie further back along chains.

Fatty acids are an important part of our diet, as well as an important part of our body. They’re used to make cell membranes, hormones and other important compounds in our bodies.

Types of Fatty Acids

The most common types of fatty acids are saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated Fatty Acids

Saturated fatty acids are fats that have no double bonds in their carbon chain. This means that the carbon atoms are all attached to hydrogen atoms, and no other types of atoms can be attached to them. The body can make saturated fatty acids from other fatty acids, but it does not require them for optimal health.

Saturated fat is often found in meat, eggs, dairy products and tropical oils such as palm oil or coconut oil. These foods contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as well as carbohydrates (carbohydrates are broken down into sugar). It’s usually solid at room temperature (as opposed to liquid).

Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Unsaturated fatty acids are not as stable as saturated fatty acids, but you can use them in the body to produce energy. They’re also liquid at room temperature and found in plants, nuts and seeds.

Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fat (MUF), polyunsaturated fat (PUF) and omega-6 PUF. MUF contains two double bonds in its molecule; PUF has more than one double bond at each carbon position, and omega-6 PUFA has six carbon atoms, three of which are double bonds.

Unsaturated fats are found in plant sources such as nuts, seeds and avocados and vegetable oils like olive oil or canola oil. They’re often liquid at room temperature but can also be oily when heated (such as in cooking or baking).

Saturated and unsaturated fats are crucial to our health.

Saturated fats are more stable than unsaturated fats in the body, so they’re less likely to be broken down by the liver or digestive system. This means you can eat more saturated fat without worrying about it being metabolized into something unhealthy or toxic. On the other hand, unsaturated fats are more likely to be liquid at room temperature and thus easier for your body to use as energy sources instead of storing them as fat cells (which can cause health problems).

You may have heard that eating too much of either type of fat is bad for you—but this isn’t true! The only thing that matters is what kind of calories come from what kind. If all your calories come from solid foods like meat and cheese, those foods will provide plenty of saturated fats. Still, suppose most of them come from liquids like fruit smoothies. In that case, those liquids will contain more unsaturated fatty acids than anything else in your diet because fruits tend not to break down easily into smaller molecules. Instead, fruits break into smaller molecules before reaching inside us humans’ stomachs, where they’re digested rather quickly before being absorbed back into our bloodstreams. During digestion, later, all those same nutrients get converted into energy molecules.

Source of Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are a type of fat that you can find in meat and animal products, such as eggs and milk. Fatty acids are also found in plants and vegetable oils like soybean, corn, and safflower.

In addition to these natural sources of fatty acids, manufacturers have produced synthetic versions for use as ingredients in foods or other products.

Synthetic fatty acids

Synthetic fatty acids are produced by first subjecting a hydrocarbon to oxidation. Therefore, the first step in producing synthetic fatty acids is to subject a hydrocarbon to oxidation. This can be done using an oxidant, such as oxygen and, frequently, a catalyst. The catalyst is usually a metal such as iron or chromium. This process is usually done in a reactor, allowing for much more precise control over the reaction conditions than possible if you did it at room temperature. The result is that synthetic fatty acids have very similar characteristics to those found naturally in fats and oils but are free from odour, taste or colour problems associated with natural products.

The main types of synthetic fatty acids are esters (made by adding ethyl groups), ethers (made by adding oxygen), glycerides (glycerol molecules linked together) and polymers such as polypropylene glycols.

Visit our Fatty Acids Reviews section to know more about what is available in the market.

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