A brief note on Lipid metabolism, digestion and absorption


Lipid metabolism

Lipid metabolism is the synthesis and degradation of lipids in cells, involving the breakdown or storage of fats for energy and the synthesis of structural and functional lipids, such as those involved in the construction of cell membranes. In animals, these facts are obtained from food or are synthesized by the liver. Lipogenesis is the process of synthesizing these fats. The majority of lipids found in the human body from ingesting food are triglycerides and cholesterol. Other types of lipids found in the body are fatty acids and membrane lipids. Lipid metabolism is often considered as the digestion and absorption process of dietary fat; however, there are two sources of fats that organisms can use to obtain energy: from consumed dietary fats and from stored fat.

Lipid digestion

Digestion is the first step to lipid metabolism, and it is the process of breaking the triglycerides down into smaller monoglyceride units with the help of lipase enzymes. Digestion of fats begins in the mouth through chemical digestion by lingual lipase. Ingested cholesterol is not broken down by the lipases and stays intact until it enters the epithelium cells of small intestine. Lipids then continue to the stomach where chemical digestion continues by gastric lipase and mechanical digestion begins (peristalsis). The majority of lipid digestion and absorption, however, occurs once the fats reach the small intestines. Chemicals from the pancreas (pancreatic lipase family and bile salt-dependent lipase) are secreted into the small intestines to help breakdown the triglycerides, along with further mechanical digestion, until they are individual fatty acid units able to be absorbed into the small intestine's epithelial cells. It is the pancreatic lipase that is responsible for signalling for the hydrolysis of the triglycerides into separate free fatty acids and glycerol units.

Lipid absorption

The second step in lipid metabolism is absorption of fats. Short chain fatty acids can be absorbed in the stomach, while most absorption of fats occurs only in the small intestines. Once the triglycerides are broken down into individual fatty acids and glycerols, along with cholesterol, they will aggregate into structures called micelles. Fatty acids and monoglycerides leave the micelles and diffuse across the membrane to enter the intestinal epithelial cells. In the cytosol of epithelial cells, fatty acids and monoglycerides are recombined back into triglycerides. In the cytosol of epithelial cells, triglycerides and cholesterol are packaged into bigger particles called chylomicrons which are amphipathic structures that transport digested lipids. Chylomicrons will travel through the bloodstream to enter adipose and other tissues in the body.

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