What is the Difference Between Lipid and Triglyceride

The main difference between lipid and triglyceride is that lipids include a broad category of organic molecules, while triglycerides specifically refer to a subgroup of lipids crucial for energy storage in cells.

Lipids and triglycerides are fundamental components in biochemistry, playing essential roles in the structure, function, and energy storage within living organisms.  In short, lipids are a broad category of molecules that include triglycerides.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Lipids
      – Definition, Features, Role
2. What are Triglycerides
      – Definition, Features, Role
3. Relationship Between Lipid and Triglyceride
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Lipid and Triglyceride
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Lipid and Triglyceride
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Lipid, Triglyceride

Difference Between  Lipid and Triglyceride - Comparison Summary

What are Lipids

Lipids, a diverse group of organic molecules, play crucial roles in biological systems, serving as energy storage, structural components of cell membranes, and signaling molecules. Chemically, lipids are characterized by their hydrophobic nature due to a predominance of nonpolar carbon-hydrogen bonds in their structures.

The most common types of lipids include triglycerides, phospholipids, and steroids. Triglycerides, composed of glycerol and three fatty acids, are primary energy reservoirs in organisms.  Phospholipids, crucial to cell membranes, consist of a hydrophilic head and hydrophobic tails. The amphipathic nature of phospholipids enables the formation of lipid bilayers, the basis of cell membranes. This selective permeability regulates the passage of ions and molecules across the membrane. Steroids, such as cholesterol, are another class of lipids with diverse functions. Cholesterol serves as a precursor for the synthesis of steroid hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. Its structural role in cell membranes influences fluidity and stability.

Differentiate Lipid and Triglyceride

The chemistry of lipids involves various biochemical reactions. Lipogenesis is the process of lipid synthesis, often occurring in the liver and adipose tissue. Lipolysis, conversely, involves the breakdown of lipids to release energy.

The study of lipids extends to their impact on health. Imbalances in lipid metabolism are associated with conditions like atherosclerosis and obesity. Lipidomics, a branch of metabolomics, focuses on the comprehensive analysis of lipid species in biological systems, providing insights into physiological and pathological processes.

What are Triglycerides

Triglycerides are fundamental molecules in biochemistry, playing a pivotal role in energy storage and metabolism within living organisms. Chemically, triglycerides are composed of glycerol and three fatty acid molecules. This structure is the result of ester linkages formed through dehydration synthesis reactions between the hydroxyl groups of glycerol and the carboxyl groups of fatty acids.

Glycerol, a three-carbon alcohol, serves as the backbone of triglycerides. Each of its hydroxyl (-OH) groups reacts with a fatty acid, which consists of a long hydrocarbon chain terminating in a carboxyl (-COOH) group. This reaction forms ester bonds, releasing water molecules as byproducts.

Lipid vs Triglyceride

The diversity of fatty acids contributes to the variability in triglyceride structures. Fatty acids can be saturated or unsaturated based on the presence of single or multiple carbon-carbon double bonds. Saturated fatty acids have only single bonds, providing a straight and rigid structure, while unsaturated fatty acids introduce kinks due to the presence of double bonds.

Triglycerides serve as efficient energy reservoirs due to their high energy density. During periods of excess energy intake, cells convert surplus energy into triglycerides for storage in adipose tissue. Conversely, when energy demand increases, triglycerides are hydrolyzed through lipolysis, releasing fatty acids and glycerol for energy production.

The metabolism of triglycerides involves enzymatic processes within cells. Lipases catalyze the hydrolysis of ester bonds, liberating fatty acids and glycerol. These components then undergo further metabolic reactions, such as beta-oxidation for fatty acids and glycolysis for glycerol, ultimately yielding adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for cellular energy.

Relationship Between Lipid and Triglyceride

  • Both lipids and triglycerides play crucial roles in energy storage and cellular structure.
  • Moreover, lipids are a broad category of molecules that include triglycerides.

Difference Between Lipid and Triglyceride


Lipids are a diverse range of molecules, such as triglycerides, phospholipids, and steroids, while triglycerides are a type of lipid with three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule.


Moreover, lipids serve various functions, including energy storage, insulation, and structural components of cell membranes, whereas triglycerides primarily function as energy storage molecules.


Lipids have a wide range of structures, with different types containing distinct arrangements of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, whereas triglycerides comprise a glycerol “backbone” and three fatty acid chains, forming a structure suitable for storing energy.

FAQ: Lipids and Triglycerides

Are lipids and triglycerides the same thing?

No, they are not the same. Triglycerides are a subcategory of lipids.

What are the two types of triglycerides?

They are saturated and unsaturated triglycerides.

What are triglycerides also called?

They are also called triacylglycerols.


Lipids encompass a broad category of organic molecules, including triglycerides, phospholipids, and steroids, while triglycerides specifically refer to a subgroup of lipids crucial for energy storage in cells. Thus, this is the main difference between lipid and triglyceride.


1. “Lowering Triglycerid Levels.” WebMD.
2. “Lipid.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Common lipids lmaps” By Lmaps at the English Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Fat triglyceride shorthand formula” By Wolfgang Schaefer – author (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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