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Lipids are a group of compounds which are characterised by their hydrophobic nature which makes them soluble in organic-type solvents e.g. alcohol, but generally immiscible in water. They are usually long-chain fatty acids and their esters.

The group includes naturally-occurring:

  • fats
  • steroids
  • phospholipids
  • glycolipids
  • waxes
  • ketone bodies

Lipid ingestion is typically around 60-100 g/day in butter, margarine, milk, meat and eggs. Triglycerides constitute the majority of this input but phospholipids, cholesterol and cholesterol esters are also absorbed.

They are vital for cell function:

  • energy source
  • precursors of hormones
  • structural elements e.g. cell membrane
  • necessary for the absorption of dietary elements e.g. vitamins A, D, E and K

Lipid production, degradation or storage may all be affected by disease; the majority are inherited.


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