Triglycerides (TG) are combinations of glycerol with 3 chains of fatty acids. These fatty acids can be saturated or unsaturated - yielding saturated or unsaturated fats, respectively.
Animal fat (lard), as well as human body fat, consists largely of TG containing saturated fatty acids - hence the term saturated fats. Therefore, in the medical vernacular, the term "triglycerides" is used to indicate saturated fats.
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Triglycerides represent energy sources for the body (providing 9 kcal per gram of
These fat molecules are readily absorbed from the intestine via the lymphatic system and
ultimately released into the blood, where they circulate as VLDL and chilomicrons. Various tissues then extract from the bloodstream the TG they need for energy production.
The remaining TG are stored in the liver and adipose (fatty) tissues - as fat deposits. If the body needs energy at a later time, these fat deposits can be
broken down (via the action of the hormone glucagon) - yielding fatty acids and glycerol.
- The fatty acids are used as energy sources by a variety of organs, except the brain (which
cannot use fatty acids for energy).
- The glycerol is used for various purposes - including being converted to glucose (sugar), which provides the fuel supplies necessary for brain function and function of other organs.
Excessive intake of saturated fats may lead to excessive TG blood levels, posing a significant cardiovascular risk. Excessive TG levels have been shown to have a pronounced inverse relationship with HDL cholesterol ('good cholesterol'): In other words, the higher the TG level, the lower the HDL level. And the lower the HDL level, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease.
If the dietary intake of saturated fats exceeds the body's energy expenditure needs, the respective fats are stored as triglycerides in adipose (fatty) tissues, in view of future usage. However, if the oversupply of fats continues, those fat deposits will never be used for energy production and will continue to accumulate, causing weight gain.
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