Lipids: what they are, types and functions

Lipids play a very important role in health. Not only are they essential as an energy reserve for the body, but they are also involved in essential processes in the body, such as the transport of nutrients, the regulation of body temperature, among others.

Taken together, these substances are diverse and come from various sources. Indeed, They are known for their role in feeding living things, since they are essential for the assimilation of some vitamins and for an optimal functioning of the metabolism.

What exactly are lipids? His duties? Since we usually read or hear this term in terms of health and nutrition, it is convenient for us to address these questions. Next, we detail more about them.

What are Lipids?

lipids are a group of biological molecules involved in relevant processes of the organism. In particular, they are part of the cell membrane, They are the basis for the production of hormones and, above all, are responsible for storing energy.

They are composed of hydrogen and carbon, although to a lesser extent they may contain sulphur, nitrogen or phosphorus. In any case they are characterized by being insoluble in water and by representing one of the body’s main energy reserves.

Now, although the term lipid is usually used to refer to fat, it `s important to note that not all lipids are fatbut all fats are lipids. We therefore find different types of lipids, classified according to their physical properties and the functions they perform.

What are Lipids?
The main function of lipids is to be an energy reserve for the body. However, they are also involved in the production of hormones, the synthesis of vitamins, among others.

types of lipids

As detailed by a article published in the scientific journal Law on biochemistry and biophysicsthe term “lipids” groups several compounds that have relevant biological functions. Therefore, when discussing these substances, it is important to know how they are classified. What types of lipids are there?


Phospholipids are made up of chains of fatty acids, phosphate and glycerol. They form hydrophobic structures, which means they repel water. Its most important function is the formation of cell membranes.

In addition, they perform other actions as well, such as digestion of other fats in the small intestine. The body is capable of generating all the phospholipids it needs.


Cholesterol is an essential molecule for the body. Contrary to what many think, it’s not always a bad thing. It is part of cell membranes; Moreover, it is the precursor of several substances, such as some vitamins or hormones such as steroids.

Therefore, a certain amount of cholesterol is essential for the body to function properly. However, too much of it can cause it to build up in your blood vessels. This is a problem, as these vessels can become blocked and, as a result, there is a greater risk of heart attack or ischemic problems.


Glycolipids are fats that also contain sugar molecules in their structure. Its most important function is related to the immune system. They are located outside the cell membrane and act as a signal for it.


Triglycerides are made up of fat and alcohol. In particular, they are the molecules into which excess energy or sugars in the body are transformed. That means, constitute its energy reserves.

As with cholesterol, excess triglycerides also tend to do this build up in blood vessels and in the rest of the body. For this reason, its high levels are associated with health problems.

types of lipids
Triglycerides play an important role as the body’s energy store. However, in excess they are harmful to health.


THE steroids They are molecules made up of cholesterol and hormones. Some examples may be testosterone or estrogen. These need cholesterol to be synthesized in the body. Specific, They perform regulatory and activating functions.

What are its functions in the body?

Lipids, depending on their type, perform various essential functions in the body. according to publication in Molecular biology of the cell, these are structural or signaling functions. In the following space we detail some of the most important.

energy reserve

The main function of this substance is to serve the body as an energy reserve. One gram of fat can provide the body with 9 kilocalories. When a person has excess sugar, it is stored in the form of fat deposits. They will be used when other sources of energy, such as carbohydrates, are lacking.

Formation of structures

Some lipids form important structures in the body. The most important example concerns cell membranes. They are formed from a specific type of lipid; at the same time, They are essential for giving shape and protection to the cell.

cellular communication

Cells communicate with each other through different substances that function as signals, such as vitamins, hormones and glycolipids. These have the function of regulating some secretions and various body responses.

Cellular communication would not be possible without certain types of lipids.


There are lipids that function as carriers of other substances throughout the body, such as nutrients. Generally, this function is performed together with bile acids and lipoproteins.

thermal regulation

Fat deposits that accumulate under the skin and around the organs act as protectors from the cold. Fat prevents heat from dissipating outward, preventing the body from cooling down.

What to remember about lipids?

Although the types and functions of lipids are varied and complex, in general they are organic compounds essential for life. To some extent, they are crucial for the proper functioning of the body. However, in excess, some varieties are harmful.

Therefore, it is advisable to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, especially with regard to nutrition, and to undergo regular medical check-ups. In the event of any abnormality in its levels, medical treatment is essential.

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