Difference Between Fats and Oils

Main Difference – Fats vs Oils

Fats and oils can be considered as essential macronutrients of the animal body. Both fats and oils are made up of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O). The combination of these elements forms chains of molecules called fatty acids. Individual fatty acids can be either saturated or unsaturated molecules. The combination of fatty acids determines whether the final chain is saturated or unsaturated. The main difference between fats and oils is that fats are composed of high amounts of saturated fatty acids which will take a solid form at room temperature whereas oils are composed of mainly unsaturated fatty acids which will take a liquid form at room temperature.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Fats
      – Definition, Saturation, Examples
2. What are Oils
      – Definition, Saturation, Examples
3. What are the Similarities Between Fats and Oils
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Fats and Oils
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Degree of Saturation, Fats, Oils, Oxidation, Rancidity, Trans Fats, Saturated Fats, Unsaturated Fats

Difference Between Fats and Oils - Comparison Summary

What are Fats

Fats are oily substances that occur in the animal body, under the skin or around organs. Since fats are higher in energy, they are good for weight gain. Ideally, fats are animal-derived. They are mainly composed of saturated fatty acids. Therefore, they are solid at room temperature. In animals, adipocytes are the specialized cells which store fat in the body. Some of the fat can be found in the liver as well. Saturated fat and trans fat are two types of fats. Dairy food such as cheese, butter, cream, full-fat milk, and meat contain saturated fats.

Difference Between Fats and Oils

Figure 1: Cheese

Trans fat is a type of unsaturated fats which naturally occurs in animal meat and dairy products in small amounts. Most of the trans fat is made up of partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. Trans fat increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels in the blood. Meanwhile, it decreases the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels in the blood. Therefore, trans fat is considered as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

What are Oils

Oils are viscous liquids which occur in fruits or seeds of plants. Since oils are mainly composed of unsaturated fatty acids, they exist as liquids at room temperature. Unsaturated fats lower the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Therefore, unsaturated fats lower the risk of heart diseases. Rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and palm oil are examples of oils.

Main Difference - Fats vs Oils

Figure 2: Olive Oil

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the two types of unsaturated fats which occur in the liquid form. Monounsaturated fats contain a single double bond in their molecular structure. These fats are stable to oxidation; therefore, they take a longer time to develop rancidity. Olive oil and rapeseed oil are monounsaturated oils. Polyunsaturated fats possess double bonds in their structure. They are less stable to oxidation and are good to use in cold temperatures. Sunflower oil is the most common example of polyunsaturated oils. 

Similarities Between Fats and Oils

  • Both fats and oils are made up of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O).
  • Both fats and oils are long chain fatty acids.
  • Both fats and oils serve as macronutrients.
  • Both fats and oils are involved in the immunity.

Difference Between Fats and Oils

Definition

Fats: Fats are oily substances in the animal body, found under the skin or around organs.

Oils: Oils are viscous liquids that occur in fruits or seeds of plants.

Saturation

Fats: Fats are mainly composed of saturated fatty acids.

Oils: Oils are mainly composed of unsaturated fatty acids.

Levels of Cholesterol

Fats: Fats increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Oils: Oils lower the cholesterol level in the blood.

Influence

Fats: Fats increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Oils: Oils lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

At Room Temperature

Fats: Fats are solid at room temperature.

Oils: Oils are liquids at room temperature.

Origin

Fats: Fats mainly originate from animal sources.

Oils: Oils mainly originate from plant sources.

Types

Fats: Trans fat and saturated fat are types of fats.

Oils: Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat are the types of oils.

Examples

Fats: Butter, cream, meat, and lard are examples of fat.

Oils: Coconut oil, olive oil, seed oil, and corn oil are examples of oils.

Oxidative Rancidity

Fats: The oxidative rancidity is high in fats.

Oils: The oxidative rancidity is low in oils.

Storage

Fats: Fats are stored in the liver and beneath the skin of animals.

Oils: Oils are stored in seeds and fruits of plants.

Adipocytes

Fats: The specialized cells that store fats are called adipocytes in animals.

Oils: Oils are stored in fat granules in plants.

Conclusion

Fats and oils are two types of essential macronutrients made up of chains of fatty acids. Fats are mainly animal-derived and are composed of saturated fats. Oils are mainly plant-derived and are composed of unsaturated fats. The main difference between fats and oils is the degree of saturation.

Reference:

1. Cox, Owen. “Fat.” Eat for health, 27 July 2015, Available here.
2. “All About Plant Oils.” Precision Nutrition, 30 May 2017, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “961152” (Public Domain) via Pixabay
2. “968657” (Public Domain) via Pixabay

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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