Can Fatty Acids Vary in Length

For the most part, the length of fatty acids can vary by as much as twenty carbon atoms or so. If a fatty acid has four carbon atoms or fewer, it is referred to as a short-chain fatty acid. On the other hand, if a fatty acid chain has six to twelve or greater than twelve carbon atoms, it would be referred to as a medium-chain fatty acid or a long-chain fatty acid, respectively. Often, fatty acids with twenty or more carbon atoms are referred to as very-long-chain fatty acids. Most fatty acids in nature have

Figure 5.2 The cholesterol molecule and its derivatives (steroid hormones and other cholesterol-derived molecules.

an even number of carbons, yet some fatty acids do indeed have an odd number of carbons.

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