Introduction to Saturated Fatty Acids

What is saturated fatty acid?

Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are fatty acids without unsaturated bonds in the carbon chain, which are one of the basic components of lipids, mostly found in octanoic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, soft fatty acid, stearic acid, arachidic acid, etc. Saturated fatty acids are mostly contained in the fats of animals such as cattle, sheep and pigs, and a few plants such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, palm oil, etc.

  • Saturated fatty acid structure

Saturated fatty acids are fatty acids that do not contain double bonds and have the general formula R-COOH. The R- group is a straight-chain hydrocarbon in the form CH3 (CH2) n. Their length varies from short chains (volatile liquids) to chains of 30 or more carbon atoms (waxy solids), but the most important fatty acids commonly found in many different plant and animal fats contain 12 to 22 carbon atoms.

  • Function of saturated fatty acids

Saturated fatty acids are not only important energy substances for the body, but also provide the body with essential fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are also the raw material for the synthesis of unsaturated fatty acid derivatives, such as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. For the human body, saturated fatty acids are an important component of lipids.

In our daily diet, saturated fatty acids are mainly found in animal fats and dairy fats. Saturated fatty acids increase the activity of certain enzymes in the body, which increase the synthesis of cholesterol and provide the energy needed for the body's vital activities.

Fatty acids act as energy donors and play a role in balancing the concentration of free fatty acids in the blood plasma, with saturated fatty acids being the preferred fatty acids. When the body is deficient in fatty acid, the body synthesizes it through carbohydrates. The first fatty acid to be synthesized through the endogenous pathway is palmitic acid. Palmitic acid is then produced as a long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid by the action of carbon chain lengthening enzymes and desaturases. The synthesis of palmitic acid through sugars is greatly enhanced when the body consumes very low levels of fatty diets.

In the absence of sufficient dietary fat, the body mobilizes carbohydrates to synthesize saturated fatty acids. The newly synthesized fatty acids are essentially similar to saturated fatty acids of animal origin, but not all fatty acid molecules are identical. There are significant differences in the composition and form of saturated fatty acids between cells of different sources. It is difficult to define the exact function of a particular fatty acid because the biosynthetic pathways are not uniform for each fat and the enzymatic systems of fat synthesis are different. What is known is that saturated fatty acids alter lipoprotein metabolism, affecting lipoprotein content and thus the ability of lipoproteins to carry cholesterol in the plasma.

Excessive intake of saturated fatty acids is the main cause of elevated blood cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which can cause atherosclerosis, leading to narrowing of the arterial lumen and increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Insufficient intake of saturated fatty acids will lead to increased vascular fragility, which can easily cause cerebral hemorrhage, anemia and other diseases.

Introduction to Saturated Fatty Acids

Saturated fatty acid assay

Creative Proteomics can provide efficient and accurate detection of saturated fatty acid changes using Thermo Scientific's U3000 fast liquid chromatography for sample separation and Thermo Scientific™ Q Exactive™ for sample identification. In addition, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) or gas phase mass spectrometry (GC-MS) can also be used for detection.


  1. Astrup, A., Magkos, F., Bier, D. M., et al. (2020). Saturated fats and health: a reassessment and proposal for food-based recommendations: JACC state-of-the-art review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 76(7), 844-857.
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