How to partially hydrolyze triglycerides for food application?

I want to make a mixture of mono- and diglycerides starting from triglycerides.


1 Answer 1


Over the last decades, partial hydrolysis of triglycerides has been examined in various contexts.

Note that this isn't my field of work and that there might hundreds of better and/or more instructive recipes, but a cursory search yielded the following freely available references:

THE DIGESTION IN VITRO OF TRIGLYCERIDES BY PANCREATIC LIPASE, F. H. Mattson, and L. W. Beck, J. Biol. Chem., 1955, 214, 115-125 (PDF)

A stereospecific analysis of triglycerides, H. Brockerhoff, Journal of Lipid Research, 1965, 6, 10-15 (PDF).

The products from lipase-catalysed hydrolysis of bovine milkfat kill Helicobacter pylori in vitro, Cynthia Q. Sun, Charmian J. O’Connor, Alastair K. H. MacGibbon, and Anthony M. Roberton, FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology, 2007, 49, 235-242 (DOI)

It seems that the digestion of triglycerides by lipases in buffered solutions is a viable approach.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Klaus for the answer. But wouldn't glycerolysis (glycerol + triglceride in a 2:1 ratio and heat) be a cheaper alternative than using Lipase? $\endgroup$
    – Kassem
    Feb 3, 2015 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Denatured You're probably right. Another non-enzymatic approach would be the reaction of fatty acid methyl esters with gylcerol (under alkaline conditions). $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2015 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ A big problem in partial esterification as well as hydrolysis is miscibility. Glycerol does not mix with fats and diesters. If water is present, this becomes even more complicated. The reactions are then two-phase and this can lead to get total hydrolysis along with unreacted fat. Hydrolysis of fats is done with superheated steam in practice, maybe this reaction can be used in an appropriate reactor. (I guess tube reactor and only small conversion) The process must be rather cheap, there is a lot of this partially hydrolysed stuff in fat-reduced food. $\endgroup$
    – Georg
    Feb 3, 2015 at 17:16

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