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Appendix B

Definition of Fatty Acids

and Compositions in
Various Oils
Fatty acids are carboxylic acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats. These
lipids are composed of a chain of alkyl groups containing usually an even number
(4 to 22) of carbon atoms and are characterized by a terminal carboxyl group COOH.
The generic formula is CH3(CH2)xCOOH, the carbon atom count includes the car-
boxyl group. Fatty acids may be saturated or unsaturated, the latter containing one
or more double bonds between the carbon atoms in the alkyl chain. The carbon
atoms of the alkyl chain in saturated fatty acids are connected by single bonds. The
most important of these are butyric (C4), lauric (C12), palmitic (C16), and stearic
(C18). The unsaturated fatty acids derived from vegetable oils contain 18 or more
carbon atoms with the characteristic end group –COOH. The most common unsat-
urated acids are oleic, linoleic, and linolenic (all C18). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated
fatty acid (MUFA) and is designatged as C18:1. Similarly, linoleic acid is a fatty acid
with two double bonds in both conjugated and unconjugated forms and is designated
as C18:2. Similarly, linolenic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) with three
double bonds and is designated as C18:3 of α-, β-, and γ- forms depending on the
locations of the double bonds.
Like oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, all PUFA are also designated by the
location of the last methyl group of the fatty acid chain, which is called “omega” (ω)
followed by the number of carbon atoms counted before the first double bond.
For example, CH3-(CH2)7-CH = CH-(CH2)7-COOH, (oleic acid) is known as
(18:1 ω-9) fatty acids; H3C-(CH2)3-CH2-CH = CH-CH = CH-CH-CH2-(CH2)7-COOH,
(linoleic acid) is known as (18:2, ω-6) fatty acid; and H3C-CH2-CH = CH-[CH2-CH
= CH]2-(CH2)7-COOH, (linolenic acid) is known as (18:3, ω-3) fatty acid. The fatty
acid compositions in various common oils are given in Table B.1.


© 2000 by CRC Press LLC

322 Natural Extracts Using Supercritical Carbon Dioxide

Fatty Acid Compositions of Various Oils (www.nutrition.com/nuts.html)
Oil Satd. fat % MUFA (%) PUFA (%) C18:3 (%) C18:2 (%)

Almond 8.2 69.9 17.4 0.0 17.4

Canola 7.1 58.9 29.6 9.3 20.3
Coconut 86.5 5.8 1.8 0.0 1.8
Corn 12.7 24.2 58.7 0.7 58.0
Olive 13.5 73.7 8.4 0.6 7.9
Palm 49.3 37.0 9.3 0.2 9.1
Peanut 16.9 46.2 32.0 0.0 32.0
Safflower 9.6 12.6 73.4 0.2 73.0
Sesame 14.2 39.7 41.7 0.3 41.3
Soybean 14.4 23.3 57.9 6.8 51.0
Walnut 9.1 22.8 63.3 10.4 52.9

© 2000 by CRC Press LLC