FATTY ACID

Fatty Acids: Definition, History, and Characteristics

Fatty acids are a type of lipid molecule composed of a hydrocarbon chain and a carboxyl group. They are important components of biological membranes and play a major role in energy metabolism. The term “fatty acid” was originally used in 1817, when the French chemist Michel Chevreul identified oleic acid, a component of animal fats, as a “fatty acid.” Over the centuries, research has greatly expanded our knowledge of fatty acid structure, functions, and utilization.

Definition

Fatty acids are carboxylic acids with a hydrocarbon chain of varying lengths. The hydrocarbon chain can range from 4 to 22 carbons in length and can be either saturated or unsaturated. Fatty acids are also classified according to the number and location of double bonds in the hydrocarbon chain. Those with no double bonds are referred to as “saturated” fatty acids, while those with one or more double bonds are referred to as “unsaturated” fatty acids.

History

The term “fatty acid” was first used in 1817 by the French chemist Michel Chevreul. Chevreul was examining animal fats and identified oleic acid, a major component of animal fats, as a “fatty acid.” Over the next two centuries, research into fatty acid structure, function, and utilization greatly expanded. In the 1920s, Frederick Gowland Hopkins suggested that fatty acids were essential components of living organisms. In the 1950s, researchers discovered the role of fatty acids in energy metabolism. Later, in the 1970s, the role of fatty acids in cell signaling and membrane formation was identified.

Characteristics

Fatty acids play an important role in biological systems. They are components of many biomolecules, including phospholipids, which form the cell membrane. They are also important sources of energy for the body, as they can be broken down by cellular enzymes to release energy. In addition, fatty acids are involved in a number of metabolic processes, such as the synthesis of hormones. They are also important precursors for the synthesis of many other molecules, such as prostaglandins and eicosanoids.

In addition to their metabolic role, fatty acids also play an important structural role. They are the main components of cellular membranes, and their structure and composition determine the membrane’s permeability and other properties.

Conclusion

Fatty acids are essential components of biological systems. They are components of cell membranes and play an important role in energy metabolism. They are also important precursors for the synthesis of many other molecules, such as prostaglandins and eicosanoids. Research into fatty acid structure, function, and utilization has greatly expanded our understanding of these molecules and their importance in living organisms.

References

Chevreul, M. G. (1817). Sur la nature et les propriétés de l’acide gras. Annales de Chimie et de Physique, 75, 5-14.

Hopkins, F. G. (1925). The nature of the fundamental activity of the fatty acids. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, 97(689), 294-298.

Rice-Evans, C. A., Miller, N. J., & Paganga, G. (1997). Structure-antioxidant activity relationships of flavonoids and phenolic acids. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 22(1-2), 7-20.

Smith, K. (1973). Membrane structure and metabolism. Annual Review of Biochemistry, 42(1), 79-110.

Wang, Y. J., & Storch, J. (1994). Fatty acid metabolism and its regulation. Annual Review of Nutrition, 14(1), 161-181.

Scroll to Top