Saturated Fatty Acid: Structure, Formula & Example

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  • 0:01 What Are Saturated…
  • 1:37 Some Examples
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

In animal products, like lamb, pork and poultry, the type of fat that we commonly find here contain saturated fatty acids. In this lesson, we will learn all about saturated fatty acids, and show some examples for them.

What Are Saturated Fatty Acids?

Do you like pork and beef? Do you like putting butter on your bread and lots of cheese in your sandwiches? Butter, pork and beef are a few examples of food sources that contain saturated fatty acids.

Food Containing Saturated Fatty Acids
Saturated fatty acid food sources

While there are food sources containing fatty acids that are good for our body, saturated fatty acids are something that we should limit ourselves from eating because it will not have a good effect on our health. If our diet has a high content of saturated fatty acids, it may lead to higher risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, and high cholesterol levels.

Saturated fatty acids are compounds that contain a carboxylic acid group with a long hydrocarbon chain consisting of carbon (C) and hydrogen (H) atoms. A carboxylic acid is a compound that contains a carboxyl group (-COOH). The illustration below is an example of lauric acid, which is a saturated fatty acid. The carboxyl group (boxed in red), is located at the end of the chain. As you can see in the picture, this fatty acid is saturated with hydrogen atoms because it contains no double bonds between carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon chain.

Lauric Acid
lauric acid

Another way to draw the fatty acid above - lauric acid - is illustrated below. Instead of writing each carbon and hydrogen atom, they are replaced with a zigzag line. Each edge of the zigzag line represents a carbon atom.

Lauric Acid
Lauric Acid

Saturated fatty acids are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The general formula is shown in the following illustration. Here, the number of hydrogen (H) atoms (2n) is twice the number of the carbon (C) atoms (n) and there are always two oxygen (O) atoms.

General Formula of a Saturated Fatty Acid
General Formula

Examples of Saturated Fatty Acids

Did you know that cheese and pizza are very high sources of saturated fatty acids? There are many types of food where saturated fatty acids occur naturally: baked goods and fried goods especially contain a high amount of saturated fatty acids. In this section, let us go over a few examples of saturated fatty acids.

Do you like buttering your toast for breakfast? If you especially like baking, then butter is a staple ingredient found in your refrigerator. Butter contains butyric acid and caproic acid.

Saturated Fatty Acid Examples

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