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What Are Fatty Acids?

Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Mathew Eng, PharmD | Last updated:

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What Are Fatty Acids?

Fatty acids are a group of chemical compounds that have a long chain-like structure. They can be used to form other compounds, such as triglycerides and cholesterol [1].

There are many different types of fatty acids and they can be classified in several ways.

For example, fatty acids can be grouped based on how long their structure is, such as short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain fatty acids [1].

Saturated vs Unsaturated Fatty Acids

Another important way to categorize fatty acids is whether they are saturated or unsaturated.

Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds in their chemical structure. Because of this structure, saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature [1].

Some examples of saturated fatty acids include [2]:

Unsaturated fatty acids have one or more double bonds in their chemical structure. This type of fat is usually liquid at room temperature (as seen in cooking oils) [1].

Some examples of unsaturated fatty acids include [2]:

Unsaturated fatty acids can be further classified by the number of double bonds in their chemical structure.

Monounsaturated fatty acids contain exactly one double bond in their structure [2].

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) contain more than one double bond [2].

All of these slight differences in chemical structure have important implications for the function and effects of these fatty acids [2].

About the Author

Mathew Eng

Mathew Eng

Mathew received his PharmD from the University of Hawaii and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the University of Washington.
Mathew is a licensed pharmacist with clinical experience in oncology, infectious disease, and diabetes management. He has a passion for personalized patient care and believes that education is essential to living a healthy life. His goal is to motivate individuals to find ways to manage their chronic conditions.

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