Lipid digestion and also absorption attitude some one-of-a-kind challenges. Triglythrade are big molecules, and unlike carbohydrates and proteins, they’re no water-soluble. Due to the fact that of this, they choose to cluster with each other in large droplets as soon as they’re in a watery atmosphere like the cradle tract. The digestive procedure has to rest those large droplets the fat into smaller droplets and then enzymatically digest lipid molecules using enzymes dubbed lipases. The mouth and stomach play a small function in this process, but most enzymatic digestion of lipids wake up in the small intestine. Native there, the commodities of lipid cradle are absorbed into circulation and transported roughly the body, i beg your pardon again calls for some distinct handling due to the fact that lipids are not water-soluble and also do not mix v the watery blood.

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Let’s begin at the beginning to learn more about the course of lipids with the cradle tract.

1. Lipid digestion in the Mouth

A couple of things occur in the mouth that begin the process of lipid digestion. Chewing mechanically breaks food right into smaller particles and mixes them through saliva. One enzyme referred to as lingual lipase is created by cell on the tongue (“lingual” method relating come the tongue) and begins part enzymatic digestion of triglycerides, cleaving individual fat acids from the glycerol backbone.

2. Lipid cradle in the Stomach

In the stomach, mixing and churning help to disperse food particles and fat molecules. Cells in the stomach produce another lipase, called gastric lipase (“gastric” means relating come the stomach) that likewise contributes come enzymatic cradle of triglycerides. Lingual lipase swallowed v food and also saliva also remains energetic in the stomach. Yet together, these two lipases play only a minor duty in fat digestion (except in the instance of infants, as defined below), and most enzymatic digestion happens in the small intestine.


Figure 5.21. overview of lipid cradle in the human gastrointestinal tract.

3. Lipid cradle in the tiny Intestine

As the stomach contents enter the small intestine, most of the dietary lipids room undigested and also clustered in big droplets. Bile, i m sorry is do in the liver and also stored in the gallbladder, is released right into the duodenum, the first section of the tiny intestine. Bile salts have both a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic side, therefore they are attracted come both fats and water. This makes them effective emulsifiers, an interpretation that they break huge fat globules into smaller droplets. Emulsification provides lipids much more accessible come digestive enzymes by raising the surface ar area for them come act (see Fig. 5.22 below).

The pancreas secretes pancreatic lipases right into the tiny intestine come enzymatically digest triglycerides. Triglycerides are broken down to fatty acids, monoglycerides (glycerol backbone with one fatty acid still attached), and also some totally free glycerol. Cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins carry out not need to be enzymatically digested (see Fig. 5.22 below).

4. Lipid absorb from the tiny Intestine

Next, those assets of fat cradle (fatty acids, monoglycerides, glycerol, cholesterol, and also fat-soluble vitamins) require to enter into the circulation so the they can be supplied by cells about the body. Again, bile helps through this process. Bile salt cluster around the products of fat digestion to type structures referred to as micelles, which help the fats obtain close enough to the microvilli that intestinal cells so that they have the right to be absorbed. The products of fat cradle diffuse across the membrane the the intestinal cells, and bile salts space recycled back to do an ext work emulsifying fat and also forming micelles.


Figure 5.22. Lipid digestion and also absorption in the little intestine.

Once within the intestinal cell, short- and medium-chain fat acids and also glycerol can be directly absorbed into the bloodstream, yet larger lipids such as long-chain fatty acids, monoglycerides, fat-soluble vitamins, and also cholesterol need help with absorption and transport to the bloodstream. Long-chain fatty acids and also monoglycerides reassemble right into triglycerides in ~ the minister cell, and together with cholesterol and also fat-soluble vitamins, room then included into transport vehicles called chylomicrons. Chylomicrons are huge structures with a core of triglycerides and also cholesterol and also an outer membrane made up of phospholipids, interspersed through proteins (called apolipoproteins) and cholesterol. This outer membrane makes them water-soluble so the they have the right to travel in the aqueous setting of the body. Chylomicrons from the little intestine travel first into lymph vessels, which then supply them to the bloodstream.

Chylomicrons room one type of lipoprotein—transport vehicles because that lipids in blood and lymph. we’ll learn much more about other species of lipoproteins top top the following page.


Figure 5.23. structure of a chylomicron. Cholesterol is not shown in this figure, yet chylomicrons save on computer cholesterol in both the lipid core and embedded ~ above the surface of the structure.

VIDEO: “Lipids—Digestion and also Absorption,” by Alice Callahan, YouTube (November, 17, 2019), 8:49 minutes.

Special Adaptations for Lipid cradle in Infants

Lipids are an important part of an infant’s diet. Chest milk contains about 4 percent fat, comparable to entirety cow’s milk. Even if it is breastfed or formula-fed, fat gives about fifty percent of one infant’s calories, and it serves crucial role in brain development. Yet, babies are born through low level of bile and also pancreatic enzyme secretion, which are important contributors to lipid cradle in older children and also adults. So, exactly how do babies digest all of the fat in your diet?

Infants have actually a few special adaptations that allow them come digest fat effectively. First, they have actually plenty of lingual and also gastric lipases right from birth. These enzymes pat a much more important duty in babies than they execute in adults. Second, breast milk actually has lipase enzyme that room activated in the baby’s little intestine. In other words, the mom makes lipases and sends lock in chest milk to assist her baby digest the milk fats. Amazing, right? in between increased task of lingual and gastric lipases and also the lipases contained in breast milk, young infants can efficiently digest fat and reap its nutritional value for development and mind development.

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Studies present that fat cradle is much more efficient in premature babies fed breast milk compared with those fed formula. Even pasteurized chest milk, as is offered when chest milk is donated for feeding babies in the hospital, is a small harder come digest, due to the fact that heat denatures the lipases. (Infants can still digest pasteurized chest milk and also formula; they’re simply less reliable at law so and also absorb less of the assets of triglyceride digestion.)1



1American Academy that Pediatrics Committee top top Nutrition, 2014. Chapter 2: advance of cradle Function. In: Kleinman RE, Greer FR, eds. Pediatric Nutrition. 7th ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy that Pediatrics.

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