Lipids are a broad group of diverse and naturally occurring, organic compounds. Lipids play a large role when it comes to energy storage and the structure of cells. They are divided into four main groups consisting of fats, lipids, hormones and steroids. The difference between fats and lipids is that fats are a subset of lipids.
Fats, like protein and carbohydrates, are a nutrient group that supplies energy to the body. Fats are organic compounds that come in liquid or solid form. They are composed of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fat causes high levels of bad cholesterol, known as LDL, and can be found in animal products and vegetable oils. Unsaturated fats help to lower bad cholesterol, but still must be consumed in moderation because of their caloric content. Unsaturated fats are found in most liquid vegetable oils.
Waxes are a type of lipid that are the esthers of fatty acids. Well-known waxes include beeswax, spermaceti and carnuba wax. In nature, wax coatings help protect the surface of some fruits and leaves from dehydration, predators and pests. Feathers and fur also have a waxy coating to repel water.
Steroids are derived from 17 carbon atoms composed of four rings. There are hundreds of different types of steroids in plants, animals and fungi, and they are involved in a variety of physiological processes. Cholesterol is one of the most well-known steroids. Most media use of the term steroids refers to the use of anabolic steroids, which are used to enhance physical performance.
Hormones are a type of lipid that bind to the surface of cells to create a response. Hormones bind to receptors to initiate a series of signals within a cell, such as gene expression or repression. Multicellular organisms all produce hormones like plants and animals.