The daily dietary intake of fat varies from below 25 g, or less than 12% of caloric intake (found among rice-eating Asian cultures), to as much as 140-160 g, or 40% of the caloric intake (found among some individuals in Western meat-eating cultures). The difference is due primarily to the increased intake, in the latter group, of saturated fatty acids found in red meat and dairy products. The intake of unsaturated fatty acids is approximately the same in both groups.

Among those substances discussed in this section are dietary triglycerides, phospholipids, and cholesterol. Fats in general are an important source of calories, but in addition, they are major structural components of the body. Because fat is insoluble in water, it is the major component of cell membranes, and each of the three compounds listed above plays an integral role in membrane structure and function. In addition, cholesterol is used by the body to synthesize the bile acids and a variety of steroid hormones.

Because it is insoluble in water, the assimilation of dietary fat by the body is a complicated process. Compared with the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins, numerous steps are involved before dietary fat reaches the bloodstream for distribution. A problem at any one of these steps can result in an abnormality in lipid assimilation.

TABLE 3 Amino Acid Carrier Systems


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