Fats and Lipids
There are three types of macronutrients the body needs to stay healthy- carbohydrates, protein, and fats. One that is often confusing and misunderstood is fats, which is often thought of as bad for the body. Fats, however, are needed for good health and are one of three other kinds of lipids. Lipids are made up of the same elements as carbohydrates which includes carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, though lipids contain many more hydrogen atoms than oxygen atoms.
Besides fats, lipids include steroids, phospholipids, and waxes. One of the main characteristics of lipids is that they do not dissolve in water, but they do play an important role in living organisms such their use for energy storage, hormones, and cell membranes.
Fats are needed for the body to stay healthy, and people could not live without some fats in the diet, but too much fat can be bad for a person and can cause a person to become overweight and may clog up the arteries. Most people, though, need to get around 20% to 30% of their food from fats. The main function of fat is to store energy in the body.
There are two main types of fats, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solids at room temperature and come from foods like red meat, cheese, and butter. They are sometimes called 'bad' fats because they have a higher risk to cause cholesterol problems, clogged arteries, and increase cancer risk.
Unsaturated fats are liquids at room temperature and come from foods such as nuts, vegetables, and fish. They are considered 'good' fats and are much better for the body. Fats help the body dissolve and store important vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K.
Waxes have a similar chemical make-up as fats, but they have only one long fatty acid chain, and they are soft and plastic at room temperatures. Waxes are produced by plants and animals and typically used for protection. Plants use waxes to help prevent water loss, and humans use it to help protect the eardrums. Bees use wax to make their honeycombs and are used in all sorts of products such as candles, chewing gum, polishes, and candles.
Steroids are often thought of as bad for the body; however, they are another major group of lipids. Steroids include cholesterol, chlorophyll, and hormones. A person's body uses cholesterol; to make the hormones in males called testosterone and in females called estrogen. Plants use steroids for the chlorophyll that is used to absorb light for photosynthesis.
Of course, there are steroids that are bad for the body, especially those called anabolic steroids, which can cause all sorts of damage to the body including strokes, kidney failure, blood clots, and liver damage. Good steroids are cholesterol and cortisol that doctors use to help people.
Finally, phospholipids make up the fourth major group of lipids and are similar to fats in their chemical make-up. They are one of the main structural components of cell membranes.
In summary, lipids are one of the major groups of organic molecules needed for the body. They include fats, steroids, phospholipids, and waxes, and play an important role in all living organisms, including humans.
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