What do fats, steroids and waxes have in common?

You must be wondering why such random compounds are placed together in this sentence? What do these physically different elements have in common? Although these 3 compounds differ drastically in physical appearance, usage, forms, etc. they all share one aspect in common: their chemical structure.

Fats, steroids and waxes come under the family of Lipids.

What are Lipids?

Lipids are a group of heterogeneous compounds which are hydrophobic, meaning they are insoluble in water and are soluble in non-polar, organic solvents such as ethers and acetones.

Lipids do not mix with water, lipids and water are poles apart in their chemical properties. This property of hydrophobicity of lipids occurs as a naturally water-proof waxes seen in leaves and fruits to prevent the loss of water and also seen in the fur of certain animal species for the same purpose.

They constitute a major group of bio-molecules that are essential for normal form and function of the body.

FATS

Fats are a type of lipids, often referred to as Triglycerides due to the presence of 3 Fatty Acids chain and a glycerol group. Fatty Acids are nothing but the building blocks or simpler form of Fats. Fatty acids are long chains of carbons with a carboxyl (-OH) group at the end.

Fats can either be solid or liquid at room temperatures based on how tightly the hydrocarbon chains which form the Fat are packed.

Fats are generally classified as saturated and unsaturated fats based on the number of carbon bonds present in the hydrocarbon chain which forms the skeletal structure of the fat molecule.

Single bond between neighbouring carbons: Saturated fats

Double bond between neighbouring carbons: Unsaturated fats

Most often the saturated fats have tightly packed molecules and exist as solids in room temperatures.

Fats and their significance in our health

Fats and the form in which we consume them plays an important role in the over-all health of one’s self.

They are also required in the uptake and assimilation of Fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins-A,D,E and K.

  • Saturated fats in our diet: Derived from animal sources: Milk, Butter, meat,
  • Derived from plant sources: cocoa butter, coconut oil
  • Unsaturated fats in our diet: Vegetable oils: olive oil, canola oil
  • Plant-based oils: sunflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil
  • Omega-3 rich foods: Seafood, nuts and seeds (walnuts, flax seed)

 Trans fat containing food: these are a type of unsaturated fat used in processed food like chips, crackers to keep them crispy. Also present in margarine, salad dressings. They are quite harmful to our health.

Why does it matter what type of fat we consume?

The amount of fat and the form in which we consume them plays a role in the possibility of us developing, cardiac diseases.

Here’s why :

Consuming more amounts of saturated fat increases the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol” whose function is to transport fat within our body. High levels of LDL, lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Hence, it is of prime importance one keeps an eye on the type and amount of fats one consumes.

 

STEROIDS

Steroids are endogenously or exogenously produced chemicals or hormones which perform and bring about certain vital functions in the body.

Chemically speaking, steroids belong to the family of lipids and have a fused four-ring structure which have characteristic hydrophobic, insolubility in water property.

Cholesterol is the most commonly found endogenously produced steroid in the body, acts a precursor for the formation of hormones such as testosterone and estradiol formed by the male and female gonads respectively.

Also form an essential component of the cellular membrane which surrounds each cell in our body.

Cholesterol which is synthesized in the liver plays a key role in Vitamin D synthesis and bile acids production. Cholesterol which is found in your blood, depending on its form if its High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)  or Low Density Lipoprotein(LDL) determines one’s risk of acquiring cardiovascular diseases.

HDL is the “good cholesterol” and should be maintained in an optimum level whereas LDL is the “bad cholesterol” and need to be kept as low as possible.

Cortisol, produced by the adrenal organs, also known as the primary stress hormone is also a naturally occurring steroid. Cortisol is a more long-term stress induced hormone whereas adrenaline is a short-term one.

Cortisol brings about the following actions when under stress, to prepare the body for the same:

-boosts up your glucose metabolism

-regulates blood pressure

-reduces inflammatory reaction

Cortisol produced too less and too much are deleterious to health.

WAXES

Waxes are naturally or artificially produced organic compounds which are also a type if lipids characterized by its ability to be formed into desired shape or structure (malleability) and insolubility in water.

Chemically, waxes are lipids which are esters of long chain of fatty acids with ester linages and hydroxyl groups.

Naturally occurring wax is found in humans, animals and plants.

The various functions they play in each are as follows:

Humans – Ear wax: produced by ceruminous glands of the ear canal as a waxy oil called cerumen to  protect the ears against bacterial and physical insults.

Plants– Cumin wax: it is a special type of wax produced by the plants, present as an outer protective Layer on the surface of leaves and fruits to prevent loss of water through evaporation.

Animals – Bees wax: secreted by the bees used to form beehives. Cosmetically used in products such as lip balms, lip gloss lotions, hand creams

Preen wax – secreted on the skin or fur of certain aquatic animals and birds to prevent the water from entering their bodies

To conclude, the property that runs common amongst the Fats, Steroids and waxes group is their inability to be dissolved by water.

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