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Triglyceride

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Definition

noun, plural: triglycerides

An energy-rich compound made up of a single molecule of glycerol and three molecules of fatty acid, and serves as a major component of animal and plant oils and fats


Supplement

A triglyceride is an energy-rich compound and serves as energy storage. It consists of a glycerol and three fatty acids. The three hydroxyl groups of glycerol in triglyceride are all esterified. The triglyceride is a major component of animal and plant oils and fats. In plants, they are a minor component in plant cell membrane and the fatty acids are mostly unsaturated. In animals, the fatty acid component is largely saturated.

Animal triglycerides are important energy source and present in adipose tissues, bloodstream, and heart muscle. Triglycerides are clinically measured and monitored. It is because an increased level of triglycerides is correlated to an increased risk to atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Accordingly, normal triglyceride level in blood is between 10 and 150 milligrams per decilitre. Elevations of the triglyceride level (particularly in association with elevated cholesterol) have been correlated with the development of atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart disease and stroke.

Triglycerides are sometimes referred to as "fat" to pertain to a triglyceride that is usually solid at room temperature. Conversely, a triglyceride that is liquid at room temperature is referred to as "oil". The term neutral fats is also taken as a synonym for triglycerides. Neutral fats, in particular, are fats that are described as neutral because they are uncharged and do not contain acidic or basic groups. They are nonpolar and hydrophobic. They are often found in the thigh and torso area of the body where it provides insulation to keep warm and body fuel reserves. The term fat is also often associated with triglycerides. That is because triglycerides are the major constituents of body fat, and vegetable fat as well.

Triglycerides belong to "glycerides", a group of esters formed from glycerol reacting with fatty acids. They are classified based on the number of fatty acids reacting with glycerol. Thus, a triglyceride would have three fatty acids reacting the hydroxyl functional group of the glycerol. Other examples of glycerides are monoglycerides and diglycerides.

Triglycerides may be considered as a subgroup of glycerolipids, a group of lipid molecules where each has a basic structure comprised of a glycerol backbone and fatty acid(s). Because of this, the triglycerides may also be referred to as triacyglycerols. Other subgroups of glycerolipids are monoglycerols and diglycerols, which are characterized based on the number of fatty acids.


Word origin: tri- (three) + glyceride

Abbreviation/Acronym:

  • TG
  • TAG

Synonym(s):

  • triacylglycerol
  • triacylglyceride
  • fat

See also:

Related term(s):