Functions Of Lipids
Understanding the Functions of Lipids in the Body
There are many functions of lipids within the human body. Many people tend to put a negative association with the term ‘lipid’, simply because it brings to mind fat. This is a huge understatement for something so crucial to the intricate functioning of the body. The term lipid applies to a group of molecular structures which includes fats, vitamins A, D, E, and K, sterols, fatty acids, and waxes. Let’s take a brief look at the major functions of lipids.
An important role that lipids play in the human body is to store energy. It is no great secret that the body gets its energy from the conversion of carbohydrates, but what many people don’t know is that if it weren’t for lipids, we would have to replenish our energy reserves after every hour spent being active! Lipids make it possible to make the most out of the carbohydrates we consume so we don’t have to “use or lose” that energy. So because of lipids, the body is able to store the energy produced by carbohydrates as sort of a reserve tank. As one could imagine, this storage of energy (aka fat) is where the unpleasant association with lipids comes from, but without them we would spend most of our time eating!
Cellular Membrane Formation
One of the little known facts about lipids is that they’re responsible for the protection of each individual cell. This protection comes in the form of the plasma membrane. The lipids form a protective barrier that keeps the important cellular information inside the body of the cell while keeping harmful substances out. The interesting thing about this role is that the membrane can, in a sense, decide what to let in and what to block out. For instance, oxygen, enzymes, and hormones would be allowed to enter through the membrane while harmful substances would be barred.
Vitamins and Hormones
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are known as fat-soluble vitamins because they are molecularly lipid-based. These vitamins are stored in fatty tissues as well as the liver and are very important to the human body—hence the reason they are called “essential nutrients”. Vitamin A is often said to improve eyesight, and it truly can. This vitamin helps our eyes to distinguish light and color, and a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to vision troubles—particularly at night time. As for vitamin D, it is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous. If it were not for vitamin D, our teeth and bones would never grow to become as strong as they should be. Vitamin D also helps to fight off autoimmune issues. Vitamin E is often associated with hair, skin, and nails—and while it does play an important role in keeping these body parts healthy—it also plays an important role in other areas of the body. For instance, vitamin E can both protect against certain cancers as well as improve cardiovascular and circulation health. This vitamin can even boost the immune system and lower cholesterol levels. Vitamin K is necessary for liver health and also helps to thicken the blood. Every time someone gets a scrape or cut, vitamin K is working hard to help the blood clot, allowing the wound to seal and heal.
Cholesterol comes in two basic forms: high density lipoprotein and low density lipoprotein. You may recognize these as HDL and LDL cholesterol. All dairy and animal meat has cholesterol—primarily the LDL (“bad”) variety. Consuming too much LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque development in one’s arteries resulting in an increased chance of suffering a stroke or heart attack. HDL (“good”) cholesterol is vital to the body as it transports the LDL cholesterol to the liver where it can be broken down and flushed from the body. This type of cholesterol is found in whole grain, fish, and nuts, and increasing these foods in one’s diet can effectively lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Lipids may not have a very good street rep, but a closer look into their role tells us that human life would cease to be without these molecules!