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Face the Fats

The Biochemistry of Lipids


Nancy A. Rice
Department of Biology
Western Kentucky University


This clicker case introduces students to the biochemistry of lipids through the story of Pete, a college student who begins to consider his nutritional fat intake after watching a commercial for the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin. In this case, students learn to differentiate the chemical composition of steroids, phospholipids, and fats as well as how lipids affect our health, both in positive and negative ways. Additionally, students learn how trans fats are manufactured and why they can have negative health side-effects. The case is designed for use in an introductory biology course either for science majors or non-majors. It could potentially be further modified for use in an upper-level biochemistry or cell biology class. The case is called a clicker case because it combines the use of PowerPoint slides (~3.74MB) and student response systems ("clickers") with a case storyline and questions. The case could be modifed however for use without these technologies.

  • Define lipid and biochemically differentiate steroid, phospholipid, and fat.
  • Explain the biochemical and nutritional differences between saturated and unsaturated fats.
  • Know how cholesterol and fats are transported through the bloodstream.
  • Understand how trans fats are generated and why they are unhealthy.
Keywords: Fats; lipids; fatty acid; HDL cholesterol; LDL cholesterol; saturated; unsaturated; trans-fat
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Biochemistry   Cell Biology   Nutrition   Food Science / Technology   Public Health  
Date Posted: 6/20/2011
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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Supplemental Materials

The following supplemental materials are recommended for use with this case study:

  Click-and-Learn: Molecular Structure of Fat hhmi/
18-slide presentation on the various molecular shapes lipids can take. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.
  Click-and-Learn: How the Body Uses Fat hhmi/
27-slide presentation on how our body uses three main sources of energy: glucose, glycogen, and fat. This slide show explores some of the ways the body processes fat, including digestion, transport, conversion, and energy extraction. Produced by HHMI BioIneractive.
  Poster: The Science of Fat hhmi/
This poster shows students fat in its different forms (from tissue to cell to molecule), how fat is transported and metabolized in the human body, and the hormonal regulation of fat cells. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive,


The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  Animation: The Fate of Fat hhmi/
This short animation provides an overview of how dietary fat gets digested, packaged, and sent to various tissues for storage or energy. Running time: 2:08 min. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive.

I have made a modified form of this that incorporates Trans-fatty acids if anyone is interested.

Sarah Spinette
Rhode Island College
Providence RI

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