Biological Importance of Lipids

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We often think of lipids negatively, because we tend to equate them solely with fats. You might then be surprised to know that lipids are quite diverse and are vital to every bodily system. Lipids are tightly associated with nearly all the cells of the nervous system, and thus play a big part in every coordinated movement we make. The membrane of every single cell in your body is primarily composed of lipids. The availability of lipids are necessary for maintaining healthy hair and skin, the proper functioning of the nervous system and aiding in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.

Types

  • In our bodies, lipids exist as waxes, oils, fats, phospholipids, vitamins and steroids. Waxes help protect your ear canal. Oil-secreting glands are found in association with hair follicles over the skin keeping it conditioned. Fats are used for long-term storage of energy. Phospholipids form membranes in every cell, and steroids are used as messengers throughout the body.

Significance

  • Ear wax is secreted by special glands found inside the skin of the ear canals. Like a miniature sticky trap, its purpose is to trap foreign objects before they reach your sensitive eardrum. Care should be taken when trying to remove earwax as the eardrum can be damaged, you increase the risk of wax blockage and the removal of ear wax from the canal also eliminates the protection it provides. If not cleaned, wax will move out of the ear canal by itself.

Identification

  • Fats are referred to as saturated or unsaturated based on the arrangement of their atoms, which in turn affects their properties. Saturated fat molecules are straight and pack themselves together tightly, whereas unsaturated fat molecules are kinked and form a more loose arrangement. Saturated fats can be distinguished from most unsaturated fats at room temperature by examining their form. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature (butter, bacon and cheese), while unsaturated fats are liquid (vegetable and olive oil). Incidentally, almost all saturated fats come from animals, while unsaturated fats are produced in plants.

Misconceptions

  • In an attempt to lose weight and lower the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, health-conscious people reduced the fats in their diets. However, the intake and availability of fats is vital for maintaining healthy hair and skin, the proper functioning of the nervous system and aiding in the absorption or production of vitamins A, D, E and K. Additionally, research at the Harvard School of Public Health has shown it is the type of fat in the diet which may be more important to our health than the amount of fat consumed.

Considerations

  • Bacteria thrive on the oils secreted on the surface of the skin at the base of each hair follicle, especially in those parts of the body where humidity is the greatest (i.e., your arm pits). The wastes produced by these bacteria living and multiplying give off that distinctive and offensive body odor. Just washing with water won't help, as the bacteria remain and the oil is not washed off by water alone. To clean off the oil and bacteria, you'll have to use a detergent like soap in the water, or use rubbing alcohol, as these oils dissolve readily in each.

Benefits

  • The layers of blubber found under the skin of cold-water marine mammals such as walruses and blue whales are fats that insulate the animals, allowing them to thrive in cold environments. Not only do lipids make great thermal insulators, but they are essentially electrical insulators as well. Neurons are cells that transmit electrical signals throughout the body. Each neuron is surrounded by specialized cells full of fats with prevent adjacent neurons from shorting each other out.

Potential

  • Biodiesel promises to be a cheaper and cleaner-burning renewable fuel source alternative to petroleum. Processed vegetable and animal fats are used in the production of biodiesel, making it both biodegradable and nontoxic. As of 2010, biodiesel production and infrastructure is established throughout the United States and is particularly dense in the eastern half and West Coast.

References

  • Photo Credit series object on black - ear cotton image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com
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