Structure and Function of Triacylglycerol (Triglyceride)

Structure and Function of Triacylglycerol (Triglyceride)
Triacylglycerols, better known as triglycerides, are a type of fat that serve to meet the energy needs of the body as well as protect internal organs from traumatic injuries. This Bodytomy post elaborates more on the triaglycerol structure and function.
Bodytomy Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Did You Know?
Triglycerides are an integral part of our bloodstream and having more than 200 mg/dl in the blood is defined as elevated triglyceride levels.
Triacylglycerols (triglycerides) are lipids, a type of fat, and their level in the blood is considered to be a measure of an individual's heart health. The dietary fat is synthesized in the liver, and moreover, can be obtained from food, particularly that which is derived from animal-based sources. Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats that we get from our diet are also considered as triglycerides.
Structure
Structure of triglyceride
A triglyceride molecule is made up of 3 molecules of fatty acids that are connected to a glycerol molecule. While a glycerol molecule is made up of 3 carbon molecules with an OH bond on each, the fatty acid molecule is made up of a long chain of carbon and hydrogen (hydrocarbon) atoms with a carboxyl (-COOH) group at one end.
Triacylglycerol (Triglyceride) Function
Protects Internal Organs
If there were no triglycerides, our body would have had a tough time protecting its internal organs. Triglycerides form the adipose tissue, which lies below the skin. Also referred to as subcutaneous fat, the adipose tissue acts as a primary fat storage site.
The fat in the adipose tissue is primarily present in the form of triglycerides. This fatty tissue covers the internal organs and protects them from physical 'trauma' or 'shock'. Organs such as the heart, liver, and the kidneys are encased within the adipose tissue that acts as a cushion against shock, jarring and sudden movement of the body. It provides a kind of padding to prevent damage to internal organs from trauma.
Provides Heat Insulation
The adipose tissue, that is essential made up of triglycerides and located below the skin, acts as the body's thermal insulator. The connective tissue plays a key role in minimizing dissipation of heat through the skin. It helps maintain the temperature of the body, which is necessary for optimal functioning of internal organs. The fatty tissue helps keep our body warm, particularly during the cold months of winter.
Act as an Energy Source
Triglycerides act as secondary energy reserves for the body. Our body primarily depends on carbohydrates for its energy requirements. However, when there is increased demand for energy, triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids to generate energy. For instance, during prolonged physical activity or fasting, oxidation of fatty acids takes place to meet the increased energy demands of the body.
Promotes Nutrient Absorption
Without triglycerides, the body finds it difficult to absorb certain nutrients―the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Adequate amounts of dietary fat are crucial to facilitate absorption of fat soluble vitamins. So when blood triglyceride levels fall, it can considerably minimize your ability to absorb these vitamins. This may eventually lead to vitamin deficiency.
Yes, triacylglycerols (triglycerides) perform various important functions to maintain our health but they can be dangerous when present in excess amounts. Abnormally high levels of triglycerides have been linked to a wide range of cardiovascular problems including atherosclerosis and heart attack. So, maintaining healthy triglyceride levels is necessary so that it remains our ally and does not turn into an enemy in our body.