Saturated and unsaturated compounds
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In organic chemistry, a saturated compound is a chemical compound that has a chain of carbon atoms linked together by single bonds and has hydrogen atoms filling all of the other bonding orbitals of the carbon atoms. Alkanes are an example of saturated compounds. An unsaturated compound is a chemical compound that contains carbon-carbon double bonds or triple bonds, such as those found in alkenes or alkynes, respectively. Saturated and unsaturated compounds need not consist only of a carbon atom chain. They can have functional groups, as well. It is in this sense that fatty acids are classified as saturated or unsaturated. The amount of unsaturation of a fatty acid can be determined by finding its iodine number.
In a chain of carbons, such as a fatty acid, a double or triple bond will cause a kink in the chain. These kinks have macro-structural implications. Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature, rather than solid, due to the kinks in the chain. The kinks prevent the molecules from packing closely together to form a solid. These fats are called oils and are present in fish and plants.
In other unsaturated hydrocarbons, the double bond between two carbons prevents rotation of the atoms about the bond, locking them into specific structural formations. When attached atoms occupy similar positions on each carbon, they are referred to as "cis", and when they are on opposite sides, they are called "trans". Most natural hydrocarbons exist in the cis state, but artificially manufactured hydrocarbons are trans. The body lacks the enzymes to properly break down the trans configuration. This is why trans fats are viewed as dangerous and unhealthy, as they tend to build up. Unsaturated compounds of the two formations are classified as geometric isomers of one another.
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