Monounsaturated fat

Monounsaturated fat

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For discussion how dietary fats affect cardiovascular health, see Diet and heart disease.

In biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

 and nutrition, monounsaturated fats or MUFA (MonoUnsaturated Fatty Acid) are fatty acids that have one double bond
Double bond
A double bond in chemistry is a chemical bond between two chemical elements involving four bonding electrons instead of the usual two. The most common double bond, that between two carbon atoms, can be found in alkenes. Many types of double bonds between two different elements exist, for example in...

 in the fatty acid chain and all of the remainder of the carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s in the chain are single-bonded. By contrast, polyunsaturated fatty acids have more than one double bond.

Fatty acid
Fatty acid
In chemistry, especially biochemistry, a fatty acid is a carboxylic acid with a long unbranched aliphatic tail , which is either saturated or unsaturated. Most naturally occurring fatty acids have a chain of an even number of carbon atoms, from 4 to 28. Fatty acids are usually derived from...

s are long-chained molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

s having a methyl group at one end and a carboxylic acid
Carboxylic acid
Carboxylic acids are organic acids characterized by the presence of at least one carboxyl group. The general formula of a carboxylic acid is R-COOH, where R is some monovalent functional group...

 group at the other end. Fatty acid viscosity
Viscosity is a measure of the resistance of a fluid which is being deformed by either shear or tensile stress. In everyday terms , viscosity is "thickness" or "internal friction". Thus, water is "thin", having a lower viscosity, while honey is "thick", having a higher viscosity...

 (thickness) and melting temperature
Melting temperature
Melting temperature may refer to:* Melting point, the temperature at which a substance changes from solid to liquid state.* DNA melting temperature, the temperature at which a DNA double helix dissociates into single strands....

 increases with decreasing number of double bonds. Therefore, monounsaturated fatty acids have a higher melting point than polyunsaturated fatty acids (more double bonds) and a lower melting point than saturated
Saturated fat
Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully "saturated" with hydrogen atoms...

 fatty acids (no double bonds). Monounsaturated fatty acids are liquids at room temperature and semisolid or solid when refrigerated.

Molecular description: oleic acid

Common monounsaturated fatty acids are palmitoleic acid
Palmitoleic acid
Palmitoleic acid, or -9-hexadecenoic acid, is an omega-7 monounsaturated fatty acid with the formula CH35CH=CH7COOH that is a common constituent of the glycerides of human adipose tissue. It is present in all tissues, but generally found in higher concentrations in the liver...

 (16:1 n−7), cis-vaccenic acid (18:1 n−7) and oleic acid
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

 (18:1 n−9). Palmitoleic acid has 16 carbon atoms with the first double bond occurring 7 carbon atoms away from the methyl group (and 9 carbons from the carboxyl end). It can be lengthened to the 18-carbon cis-vaccenic acid. Oleic acid has 18 carbon atoms with the first double bond occurring 9 carbon atoms away from the carboxylic acid group. The illustrations below show a molecule of oleic acid in Lewis formula and as a space-filling model
Space-filling model
In chemistry a space-filling model, also known as calotte model, is a type of three-dimensional molecular model where the atoms are represented by spheres whose radii are proportional to the radii of the atoms and whose center-to-center distances are proportional to the distances between the atomic...


Relation to health

Although polyunsaturated fats protect against cardiovascular disease by providing more membrane
Biological membrane
A biological membrane or biomembrane is an enclosing or separatingmembrane that acts as a selective barrier, within or around a cell. It consists of a lipid bilayer with embedded proteins that may constitute close to 50% of membrane content...

 fluidity than monounsaturated fats, they are more vulnerable to lipid peroxidation
Lipid peroxidation
Lipid peroxidation refers to the oxidative degradation of lipids. It is the process in which free radicals "steal" electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage. This process proceeds by a free radical chain reaction mechanism...

Rancidification is the chemical decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids . When these processes occur in food, undesirable odors and flavors can result. In some cases, however, the flavors can be desirable . In processed meats, these flavors are collectively known as "warmed over flavor"...

). On the other hand, some monounsaturated fatty acids (in the same way as saturated fats) may promote insulin resistance
Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a physiological condition where the natural hormone insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugars. The resulting increase in blood glucose may raise levels outside the normal range and cause adverse health effects, depending on dietary conditions. Certain cell types...

, whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids may be protective against insulin resistance.
In contrast to this, the large scale KANWU study found that neither dietary monounsaturated or supplemented polyunsaturated fats (in the form of fish oil) affected insulin sensitivity while increased consumption of saturated fat significantly decreased insulin sensitivity.

Foods containing monounsaturated fats reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, while possibly increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
However, their true ability to raise HDL is still in debate.

Levels of oleic
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

 and monounsaturated fatty acids in red blood cell membranes were positively associated with breast cancer
Breast cancer
Breast cancer is cancer originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Cancers originating from ducts are known as ductal carcinomas; those originating from lobules are known as lobular carcinomas...

 risk. The saturation index (SI) of the same membranes was inversely associated with breast cancer risk. Monounsaturated fats and low SI in erythrocyte membranes are predictors of postmenopausal breast cancer. Both of these variables depend on the activity of the enzyme 9-d delta 9 desaturase.

In children, consumption of monounsaturated oils is associated with healthier serum lipid profiles.

Natural sources

Monounsaturated fats are found in natural foods such as red meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

, whole milk products, nuts
Nut (fruit)
A nut is a hard-shelled fruit of some plants having an indehiscent seed. While a wide variety of dried seeds and fruits are called nuts in English, only a certain number of them are considered by biologists to be true nuts...

 and high fat fruits such as olives and avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

s. Olive oil is about 75% monounsaturated fat. Canola oil and Cashews are both about 58% monounsaturated fat. Tallow
Tallow is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.In industry,...

 (beef fat) is about 50% monounsaturated fat and lard
Lard is pig fat in both its rendered and unrendered forms. Lard was commonly used in many cuisines as a cooking fat or shortening, or as a spread similar to butter. Its use in contemporary cuisine has diminished because of health concerns posed by its saturated-fat content and its often negative...

 is about 40% monounsaturated fat. Other sources include macadamia nut oil, grapeseed oil
Grape seed oil
Not to be confused with Rapeseed oil.Grape seed oil is a vegetable oil pressed from the seeds of various varieties of Vitis vinifera grapes, an abundant by-product of winemaking.- Cooking :...

, groundnut oil (peanut oil
Peanut oil
Peanut oil is an organic material oil derived from peanuts, noted to have the aroma and taste of its parent legume....

), sesame oil
Sesame oil
Sesame oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. Besides being used as a cooking oil in South India, it is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and to a lesser extent Southeast Asian cuisine.The oil from the nutrient rich seed is popular in alternative...

, corn oil
Corn oil
Corn oil is oil extracted from the germ of corn . Its main use is in cooking, where its high smoke point makes refined corn oil a valuable frying oil. It is also a key ingredient in some margarines. Corn oil is generally less expensive than most other types of vegetable oils. One bushel of corn...

, popcorn
Popcorn, or popping corn, is corn which expands from the kernel and puffs up when heated. Corn is able to pop because, like sorghum, quinoa and millet, its kernels have a hard moisture-sealed hull and a dense starchy interior. This allows pressure to build inside the kernel until an explosive...

, whole grain
Whole grain
Whole grains are cereal grains that contain cereal germ, endosperm, and bran, in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm. Whole grains can generally be sprouted while refined grains generally will not sprout. Whole-meal products are made by grinding whole grains in order to make...

Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

, cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

, oatmeal
Oatmeal is ground oat groats , or a porridge made from oats . Oatmeal can also be ground oat, steel-cut oats, crushed oats, or rolled oats....

, safflower oil, sunflower oil
Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil expressed from sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. Sunflower oil was first industrially produced in 1835 in the Russian Empire.- Composition :Sunflower oil is mainly a...

, tea-oil Camellia, and avocado oil
Avocado oil
Avocado oil is an edible oil pressed from the fruit of the Persea americana . As a food oil, it is used as an ingredient in other dishes, and as a cooking oil. It is also used for lubrication and in cosmetics where it is valued for its regenerative and moisturizing properties.It has an unusually...


See also

  • High density lipoprotein
    High density lipoprotein
    High-density lipoprotein is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins, which, in order of sizes, largest to smallest, are chylomicrons, VLDL, IDL, LDL, and HDL, which enable lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides to be transported within the water-based bloodstream...

  • Saturated fat
    Saturated fat
    Saturated fat is fat that consists of triglycerides containing only saturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids have no double bonds between the individual carbon atoms of the fatty acid chain. That is, the chain of carbon atoms is fully "saturated" with hydrogen atoms...

  • Unsaturated fat
    Unsaturated fat
    An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond within the fatty acid chain. A fat molecule is monounsaturated if it contains one double bond, and polyunsaturated if it contains more than one double bond. Where double bonds are formed, hydrogen atoms are...

    • Polyunsaturated fat

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