Triglyceride

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A triglyceride (triacylglycerol, TAG or triacylglyceride) is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids.[1] It is the main constituent of vegetable oil and animal fats.[2]

Contents

Chemical structure

Triglycerides are formed by combining glycerol with three molecules of fatty acid. The glycerol molecule has three hydroxyl (HO-) groups. Each fatty acid has a carboxyl group (COOH). In triglycerides, the hydroxyl groups of the glycerol join the carboxyl groups of the fatty acid to form ester bonds[citation needed]:

The three fatty acids (RCO2H, R'CO2H, R''CO2H in the above equation) are usually different, but many kinds of triglycerides are known. The chain lengths of the fatty acids in naturally occurring triglycerides vary, but most contain 16, 18, or 20 carbon atoms. Natural fatty acids found in plants and animals are typically composed only of even numbers of carbon atoms, reflecting the pathway for their biosynthesis from the two-carbon building block acetyl CoA. Bacteria, however, possess the ability to synthesise odd- and branched-chain fatty acids. As a result, ruminant animal fat contains odd-numbered fatty acids, such as 15, due to the action of bacteria in the rumen. Many fatty acids are unsaturated, some are polyunsaturated, e.g., those derived from linoleic acid.[citation needed]

Most natural fats contain a complex mixture of individual triglycerides. Because of this, they melt over a broad range of temperatures. Cocoa butter is unusual in that it is composed of only a few triglycerides, derived from palmitic, oleic, and stearic acids.[citation needed]

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