Fatty Acids: Quick Reference
Fatty acids are classified by the number carbon atoms:
- Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) < 6 carbon atoms.
- Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA) 6, 8 or 10 carbon atoms.
- Long Chain Fatty Acids (LCFA) 12 or more carbon atoms.
- 3 SCFA + 1 Glycerol = 1 Short Chain Triglyceride (SCT)
- 3 MCFA + 1 Glycerol = 1 Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT)
- 3 LCFA + 1 Glycerol = 1 Long Chain Triglyceride (LCT)
- SCT and MCT pass directly from the intestines into the bloodstream where they are carried to the liver via the portal vein. LCT must first be packaged as lipoproteins known as chylomicrons which first enter the lymphatic system where they are carried to the thoracic duct and emptied into the heart and blood stream.
- SCT and MCT can pass through the blood brain barrier. LCT cannot.
- The small size of SCFA and MCFA allows them to easily pass through the plasma membranes of cell walls and mitochondria.