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Chemistry LibreTexts

6: Lipids

  • Page ID
    129885
  • The lipids are a large and diverse group of naturally occurring organic compounds that are related by their solubility in nonpolar organic solvents (e.g., ether, chloroform, acetone and benzene) and general insolubility in water. There is great structural variety among the lipids, as will be demonstrated in the following sections.

    • 6.1: Introduction to Lipids
      Lipids are not defined by the presence of specific functional groups, as carbohydrates are, but by a physical property—solubility. Compounds isolated from body tissues are classified as lipids if they are more soluble in organic solvents, such as dichloromethane, than in water. Hence, the lipid category includes not only fats and oils, which are esters of the trihydroxy alcohol glycerol and fatty acids, but also compounds derived from phosphoric acid, carbohydrates,  amino alcohols and steroids.
    • 6.2: Fatty Acids
      Fatty acids are carboxylic acids that are the structural components of many lipids. They may be saturated or unsaturated. Most fatty acids are unbranched and contain an even number of carbon atoms. Unsaturated fatty acids have lower melting points than saturated fatty acids containing the same number of carbon atoms.
    • 6.3: Fats and Oils
      Fats and oils are composed of molecules known as triglycerides, which are esters composed of three fatty acid units linked to glycerol. An increase in the percentage of shorter-chain fatty acids and/or unsaturated fatty acids lowers the melting point of a fat or oil. The hydrolysis of fats and oils in the presence of a base makes soap and is known as saponification. Double bonds present in unsaturated triglycerides can be hydrogenated to convert oils (liquid) into margarine (solid).
    • 6.4: Membranes and Membrane Lipids
      Lipids are important components of biological membranes. These lipids have dual characteristics: part of the molecule is hydrophilic, and part of the molecule is hydrophobic. Membrane lipids may be classified as phospholipids, glycolipids, and/or sphingolipids. Proteins are another important component of biological membranes. Integral proteins span the lipid bilayer, while peripheral proteins are more loosely associated with the surface of the membrane.
    • 6.5: Steroids
      Steroids have a four-fused-ring structure and have a variety of functions. Cholesterol is a steroid found in mammals that is needed for the formation of cell membranes, bile acids, and several hormones. Bile salts are secreted into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of fats.
    • 6.6: Exercises
      Problems and select solutions for the chapter.
    • 6.7: Lipids (Summary)
      To ensure that you understand the material in this chapter, you should review the meanings of the bold terms in the following summary and ask yourself how they relate to the topics in the chapter.