Functions of Triglycerides
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Functions of Triglycerides

Cell Membranes

One of the very important functions of triglycerides and, even more so, the related phospholipids is that they contribute to the structure of membranes by the formation of a lipid bilayer.
Shorthand structure of a phospholipid. [fatty11.jpg]
The membranes serve as a barrier to keep separate the inside of a cell and the outside of a cell. The triglycerides and the phospholipids help to achieve this by having the polar head of the molecule facing the inside of the cell as well as the outside of the cell and then the nonpolar fatty acid portions of the molecules tend to dissolve into one another and form a mix that is resistant to water, thus keeping the solution of the inside of the cell inside restricting the flow of water and things to the outside of the cell and vice versa.
aqueous interior of cell
Shorthand structure of lipid bilayer. [fatty12.jpg]
aqueous exterior
lipid bilayer


Cell membranes made in this way are not rigid. They are, in fact, quite fluid and that is of considerable value to the cells. Of course things do need to get from the outside of the cell to the inside and from the inside to the outside. So, built into these lipid bilayers are other kinds of molecules, such as proteins, which will span from the inside to the outside and allow for the conduction of chemicals into and out of the cell.


Other Functions

There are several other useful functions of fats in the body.

They provide some protection against shock.
They also provide thermal insulation.
In foods they provide flavor and palatability.
Also, of course, they are used as a source of energy.

We'll take a detailed look at that last function in the separate section on the metabolism of fats.


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E-mail instructor: Sue Eggling

Clackamas Community College
2001, 2003 Clackamas Community College, Hal Bender