Fats and lipids play critical roles in the overall functioning of the body, such as in digestion and energy metabolism. Usually, 95 percent of the fat in food is digested and absorbed into adipose, or fatty, tissue. Fats are the body's energy provider and energy reserve, which helps the body maintain a constant temperature. Fats and lipids are also involved in the production and regulation of steroid hormones, which are hydrophobic (or "water-fearing") molecules made from cholesterol in the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, a compartment within a cell in which lipids, hormones, and proteins are made. Steroid hormones are essential in regulating sexuality, reproduction, and development of the human sex organs, as well as in regulating the water balance in the body. Steroid hormones can also freely flow in and out of cells, and they modify the transcription process, which is the first step in protein synthesis, where segments of the cell's DNA, or the genetic code, is copied.
Fats and lipids also have important structural roles in maintaining nerve impulse transmission, memory storage, and tissue structure. Lipids are the major component of cell membranes. The three most common lipids in the membranes of eukaryots, or nucleus-containing cells, are phospholipids, glycolipids, and cholesterol. A phospholipid has two parts: (1) the hydrophilic ("water-loving") head, which consists of choline, phosphate, and glycerol, and (2) the hydrophobic ("water-fearing") fatty acid tail, which consists of carbon and hydrogen. The hydrophilic head is the part of the phospholipids that is in contact with water, since it shares similar chemical properties with polyunsaturated: having multiple double bonds within the chemical structure, thus increasing the body's ability to metabolize it energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel hormone: molecules produced by one set of cells that influence the function of another set of cells molecule: combination of atoms that form stable particles cholesterol: multi-ringed molecule found in animal cell membranes; a type of lipid protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet
DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid; the molecule that makes up genes, and is therefore responsible for heredity genetic: inherited or related to the genes aqueous: water-based intestines: the two long tubes that carry out the bulk of the processes of digestion enzyme: protein responsible for carrying out reactions in a cell bile: substance produced in the liver which suspends fats for absorption lymphatic system: group of ducts and nodes through which fluid and white blood cells circulate to fight infection water molecules. The hydrophobic tail of the phospholipids faces inward, and therefore is able to avoid any contact with water. In this particular arrangement, the phospholipids arrange themselves in a bilayer (double layer) alignment in aqueous solution.
Fats are metabolized primarily in the small intestines because the enzymes of the stomach cannot break down fat molecules due to their hy-drophobicity. In the small intestines, fat molecules stimulate the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), a small-intestine hormone, into the bloodstream. The CCK in the blood triggers the pancreas to release digestive enzymes that can break down lipids. The gallbladder is also stimulated to secrete bile into the small intestines. Bile acids coat the fat molecules, which results in the formation of small fat globules, which are called micelles. The coating prevents the small fat globules from fusing together to form larger fat molecules, and therefore the small fat globules are more easily absorbed. The pancreatic enzymes can also break down triglycerides into monoglycerides and fatty acids. Once this occurs, the broken-down fat molecules are able to diffuse into the intestinal cells, in which they are converted back to triglycerides, and finally into chylomicrons.
Chylomicrons, which are composed of fat and protein, are macromole-cules that travel through the bloodstream into the lymphatic capillaries called lacteals. The lymphatic system is a special system of vessels that carries a clear fluid called lymph, in which lost fluid and proteins are returned to the blood. The lacteals absorb the fat molecules and transport them from the digestive tract to the circulatory system, dumping chylomicrons in the bloodstream. The adipose and liver tissues, which release enzymes called lipoprotein lipase, break down chylomicrons into monoglycerides and fatty acids. These molecules diffuse into the adipose and liver cells, where they are converted back to triglycerides and stored as the body's supply of energy.
diet: the total daily food intake, or the types of foods eaten
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