A better understanding of how our bodies digest lipids or fats can help to balance our diet. It should already be known that the absorption of lipids is one of the most complex digestive mechanisms that our digestive system has to deal with daily. To understand it all, here is some precise information on the biology of fat digestion!
What is the role of lipids or fats in the body?
Dietary lipids commonly known as fats are part of our daily diet. They can be of vegetable or animal origin. They are naturally present in foods such as fish, meat, cheese, egg yolk, oil seeds, milk, oils, seeds, pastries, etc.
They are energetic macro-molecules (nutrients) that meet many of the body’s needs. Fat is our main reserve of energy stored in adipose tissue: 1 g of fat provides 9 kcal (slightly more than twice the caloric intake of protein and carbohydrates).
Fat deposits provide energy to the cells and contribute to the structure of our nervous, brain and hormonal systems. Dietary fats allow the transport of certain vitamins, play a protective role and also serve as thermal insulation for the body.
We often appreciate the texture of food, its good smell and pleasant taste, hence its excessive consumption. However be aware, an overload of fat in the diet can lead to the development of a cardiovascular disease, overweight and even obesity.
How does the fat digestion process work?
As with any food, the phase of fat digestion begins in the mouth. The food is chewed and well impregnated with saliva where it comes into contact with digestive enzymes specially secreted to liquefy the lipids: lipases. A gelatinous mixture forms and goes down into the stomach through the esophagus channel.
Digesting and absorbing fats requires that the complex fat molecules obtained in this way be broken down into smaller, more absorbable molecules. Then, under the action of gastric lipase, the liquid molecules of lipids are transformed into fatty acid molecules and glycerol molecules. The result is an emulsion in which the lipid particles are cut into smaller pieces. (1)
This breakdown of lipids takes place in the duodenum. The digestive system uses bile secretion produced in the liver but stored in the gallbladder. The combined action of bile and pancreatic enzymes continues the hydrolysis (dissolution of fat molecules) of lipids.
This phase speeds up the digestion of triglycerides, which are the major component of dietary lipids. The absorption of lipids takes about 10 to 15 minutes through the intestinal villi (cells that cover the walls of the small intestine). These walls, which are lined with lymphatic vessels, absorb fatty acids and glycerol, which they carry into the bloodstream and to the membranes of the fat cells, where they are stored for conversion into cellular energy.
How can I promote fat digestion?
The intake of fat is fundamental to our diet. However, they must be of good quality and be consumed in reasonable quantities. The intake of healthy fats of vegetable origin allows lipid absorption that does not cause fat deposits in the body. You can also consume animal fats in smaller quantities.
Some people have great difficulty digesting fats. Especially fats of animal origin. The problem may be caused by the liver, which, although not diseased, does not function optimally. It is important to regulate this imbalance because the digestion of lipids is important. Indeed, fats are sources of energy that are indispensable for many vital functions of the body. Not consuming them at all would lead to the appearance of certain illnesses in the long term.
To digest triglycerides safely, it is essential to follow a few simple tips:
- Eat small quantities of meals spread over key moments of the day.
- Avoid bad fats as much as possible (delicatessen, fast food…)
- Apply a heat pack (hot water bottle) to the liver area to stimulate its functioning and the secretion of bile.
Difficulty digesting fat can also be reduced with food supplements, the addition of spices to dishes, and above all with one of the most effective remedies against fat indigestion: lemon juice.
Despite its acidity, lemon has the ability to help the body digest fats. It improves the assimilation of nutrients thanks to its proportion of vitamin C. You should add a few drops of fresh lemon juice to all your dishes, especially when they are made with animal fats.
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