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any one of a group of organic compounds with general formula RCO2R′ (where R and R′ are alkyl groups or aryl groups) that are formed by the reaction between an alcohol and an acid.
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 formed from glycerolglycerol,
or 1,2,3-propanetriol
, CH2OHCHOHCH2OH, colorless, odorless, sweet-tasting, syrupy liquid. Glycerol is a trihydric alcohol. It melts at 17.
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 and one to three fatty acidsfatty acid,
any of the organic carboxylic acids present in fats and oils as esters of glycerol. Molecular weights of fatty acids vary over a wide range. The carbon skeleton of any fatty acid is unbranched. Some fatty acids are saturated, i.e.
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. Fats and oilsfats and oils,
group of organic substances that form an important part of the diet and also are useful in many industries. The fats are usually solid, the oils generally liquid at ordinary room temperatures.
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 are triglycerides. In a simple triglyceride such as palmitinpalmitin
, fat that is the triglyceride of palmitic acid, CH3(CH2)14CO2H, i.e., the tripalmitate ester of glycerol. It is a white crystalline solid at ordinary temperatures, insoluble in water but soluble in ethanol and ether.
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 or stearinstearin
, fat that is the triglyceride of stearic acid, CH3(CH2)16CO2H, i.e., the tristearate ester of glycerol. It is a white crystalline solid at ordinary temperatures and is insoluble in water and very slightly soluble in alcohol.
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, all three fatty-acid groups are identical. In a mixed triglyceride, two or even three different fatty-acid groups are present; most fats and oils contain mixed triglycerides.


A simple lipid. Triglycerides are fatty acid triesters of the trihydroxy alcohol glycerol which are present in plant and animal tissues, particularly in the food storage depots, either as simple esters in which all the fatty acids are the same or as mixed esters in which the fatty acids are different. The triglycerides constitute the main component of natural fats and oils.

The generic formula of a triglyceride is shown

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below, where RCO2H, RCO2H, and RCO2H represent molecules of either the same or different fatty acids, such as butyric or caproic (short chain), palmitic or stearic (long chain), oleic, linoleic, or linolenic (unsaturated). Saponification with alkali releases glycerol and the alkali metal salts of the fatty acids (soaps). The triglycerides in the food storage depots represent a concentrated energy source, since oxidation provides more energy than an equivalent weight of protein or carbohydrate. See Lipid metabolism

The physical and chemical properties of fats and oils depend on the nature of the fatty acids present. Saturated fatty acids give higher-melting fats and represent the main constituents of solid fats, for example, lard and butter. Unsaturation lowers the melting point of fatty acids and fats. Thus, in the oil of plants, unsaturated fatty acids are present in large amounts, for example, oleic acid in olive oil and linoleic and linolenic acids in linseed soil. See Lipid


(organic chemistry)
CH2(OOCR1)CH(OOCR2)CH2(OOCR3) A naturally occurring ester of normal, fatty acids and glycerol; used in the manufacture of edible oils, fats, and monoglycerides.
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