Dietary fats are made up of triglycerides, which include fatty acid molecules and glycerol. Dietary fats also include phospholipids, free fatty acids, monoglycerides (1 fatty acid), diglycerides (2 fatty acids), and sterols.
Fat digestion begins in the stomach. Some of the byproducts of fat digestion can be directly absorbed in the stomach. When the fat enters the small intestine, the gallbladder and pancreas secrete substances to further break down the fat.
Fat digestion disorders occur when there is a problem with any of these processes.
Small bowel syndrome, liver disorders, as well as cystic fibrosis may increase the risk of fat digestion disorders and lead to fat malabsorption.
At The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, children with disorders of fat digestion are managed by doctors in the Division of Gastroenterology (GI), Hepatology and Nutrition.