Fats are a type of lipid that is vital for health. They provide energy, cushion the organs, help the cells to grow and reproduce and keep the body warm (1). Examples of fats are avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and eggs.
Fat digestion starts before reaching the stomach, with chemical digestion starting in the mouth. The body continues digesting food as it moves through the digestive tract (2).
The digestion process begins in the mouth when you start chewing your food. The teeth break down the fats into smaller pieces and the saliva moistens the food so that it is easier to move through the esophagus and into the stomach (3). When you swallow, a series of muscle contractions move the food from the esophagus to the stomach.
The majority of fat digestion takes place in the small intestines. The liver produces a substance called bile which is stored in the gallbladder and released when fatty foods reach the small intestines. The bile is the most important substance for breaking down fats. The pancreas releases an enzyme called lipase which is also crucial for the digestion of fats.
Once the fat has been broken down to its smallest unit, fatty acids are passed through the system and throughout the body via the bloodstream to be used or stored for energy, cell repair and growth (3).