Fats vs Oils- Definition, 14 Major Differences, Examples

Fats Definition

Fat is a type of nutrient composed of the ester of fatty acids and their mixtures which occur in living beings and are taken up through different food sources.

  • Fats are a category of lipids and are also the most abundant of all lipids found in nature. These occupy about 90% of the total dietary lipids, while the rest are covered by phospholipids, cholesterol, and oils.
  • Fats are a significant component of storage or deposits in plant and animal cells, but these are rarely found in the membranes.
  • In animals, most of the fats occur in the fat cells or adipocytes, where a large concentration of triglycerides occurs in the form of fat droplets.
  • Even though the term fat has been used to indicate triglycerides, it can be used more narrowly to indicate solid or semisolid lipids at room temperature.
  • These are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen like most organic compounds and are insoluble in water but soluble in non-polar solvents.
  • Fat is an essential part of nutrition in humans, together with other macronutrients like carbohydrates and proteins.
  • Fat is commonly found in food sources like milk, butter, bacon, milk products, fish, etc. Fats mostly originate from animal sources.
  • It is a major energy source in different animals and is also stored in various forms for waterproofing and thermal insulation.
  • Lipids, especially fats, also play a significant role in the structural and metabolic functions of living organisms.
  • Fats are composed of saturated fatty acids, and thus, the substances exist in a solid-state at room temperature.
  • These are known to increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood in living beings as the fats get converted to cholesterol and are stored within the body.
Fats vs Oils
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Oils Definition

Oil is a type of triglycerides composed of unsaturated fatty acids that are defined by their physical state and hydrophobicity.

  • Oil is a type of lipid with a high carbon and hydrogen content. Chemically, it is a triglyceride with unsaturated fatty acids.
  • Oil remains in the liquid state at room temperature and is lipophilic and hydrophobic.
  • Most of the oil found in nature originate from plant sources and usually stored in the seeds and fruits of the plants.
  • Depending on the source and the nutritional value, oil can be used for different purposes other than consumption.
  • The oil used for consumption is termed organic oil, as it is obtained from organic sources. These oils might contain other molecules like proteins and waxes other than just lipids.
  • Oil is considered comparatively healthy than fats for consumption as it doesn’t have the associated risk of increasing the cholesterol levels of the body and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Oil, however, provides as much energy as fats and are less likely to be stored in the body. Some plants, as well as animal cells, do store some amount of oil in their cytoplasm.
  • Oils or unsaturated fatty acids can be further divided into two distinct groups; monounsaturated fatty acids with a single double or triple bonds in the structure and polyunsaturated fatty acids with more than one double or triple bond in the structure.
  • Oils are not commonly found in the structure of cell and living systems as they have stronger forces between the molecules.

14 Key Differences (Fats vs Oils)

Characteristics Fats Oils
Definition Fat is a type of nutrient composed of the ester of fatty acids and their mixtures which occur in living beings and are taken up through different food sources. Oil is a type of triglycerides composed of unsaturated fatty acids that are defined by their physical state and hydrophobicity.
Composed of Fats are composed of saturated fatty acids. Oils are composed of unsaturated fatty acids.
Fatty acid chains The fatty acid chains in fats are packed closely together. The fatty acid chains in oils are packed less closely.
Van der Waal’s force Van der Waal’s force in fats is stronger. The Van der Waal’s force in oils is weaker.
Hydrogenation Saturated fats cannot be hydrogenated. Unsaturated fats can be hydrogenated.
Physical state Fats remain in a solid-state at room temperature. Oils remain in the liquid state at room temperature.
Sources Fats primarily originate from animal sources. Oils primarily originate from plant sources.
Types There are two types of fats; saturated fat and trans fat. There are two types of oils; monounsaturated lipid and polyunsaturated lipid.
Cholesterol Fats increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Oils lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Effect on the cardiovascular system Fats might increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in humans. Oils do not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases in humans.
Oxidative rancidity The oxidative rancidity of fats is high. The oxidative rancidity of oils is low.
Stored in Fats are primarily stored in the liver and beneath the skin of animals. Oils are primarily stored in the seeds and fruits of plants.
Found in cells Fats can be found in specialized animal cells called fat cells or adipocytes. Oils can be found in the form of fat granules in plant cells.
Examples Examples of fats include butter, milk, cheese, meat, etc. Examples of oils include coconut oil, mustard oil, olive oil, etc.

Examples of Fats

Butter

  • Butter is a dairy product obtained from milk which has a fat content of about 80%.
  • It exists in a semisolid state at room temperature and is used in the form of spread, melted condiment, or an ingredient in baking.
  • A tablespoon of butter roughly contains 8 gm of fats, where 7.5gm is saturated fat, and 0.5 gm is trans fat.
  • The color of natural butter depends on the source, and the animal’s feed, and genetics. In general, the color can range from deep yellow to nearly white.
  • The triglycerides occurring in butter are usually derived from fatty acids like palmitic acid, oleic acid, and stearic acid. The exact composition of the fatty acid varies with the source.

Examples of Oils

Olive Oil

  • Olive oil is a type of liquid fat that is extracted from olives in different regions of the world.
  • Olive oil has been increasingly used in cooking, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals as well as soaps.
  • The composition of olive oil is triglycerides, free fatty acids, mono and diglycerides, and some hydrocarbons.
  • Primarily, the fatty acids in olive oil include palmitic acid, palmitoleic acids, stearic acid, linoleic acid linolenic acid.
  • The fatty acid composition of olive oil differs from sample to sample depending on the zone of production, climate, and variety of olives.

References and Sources

  • Jain JL, Jain S and Jain N (2005). Fundamentals of Biochemistry. S. Chand and Company.
  • Nelson DL and Cox MM. Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. Fourth Edition. 
  • Berg JM et al. (2012) Biochemistry. Seventh Edition. W. H Freeman and Company.
  • Dimitrios Boskou, Georgios Blekas, Maria Tsimidou. Olive Oil Composition. Olive Oil (Second Edition). AOCS Press. 2006. Pages 41-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-893997-88-2.50008-0.
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