Gigg, Roy H. Chemistry Division, National Institute for Medical Research, London, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:June 2020
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One of a class of compounds containing long-chain aliphatic hydrocarbons and their derivatives, such as acids (fatty acids), alcohols, amines, amino alcohols, and aldehydes. Lipids are naturally occurring organic compounds, and they include waxes, fats (Fig. 1), oils, steroids, hormones, and certain vitamins. The presence of a long aliphatic chain—that is, carbon atoms that are arranged in a straight chain as opposed to a ring—as the characteristic component of lipids confers distinct solubility properties on the simpler lipids. This led to the traditional definition of lipids as substances that are insoluble in water, but soluble in fat solvents (for example, ether, chloroform, and benzene). However, lipids (particularly glycolipids and phospholipids) that contain polar components in the molecule may be insoluble in these solvents, and some lipids are even soluble in water. Most of the phosphatides (phospholipids having a glycerol component) are good emulsifying agents. See also: Emulsion; Lipid metabolism; Solvent; Trans fatty acid; Vitamin
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