My professor tells us that carbohydrate is an important part of phospholipid, but phospholipid is composed of Choline, Phosphate, Glycerol and two Fattyacid, and I don't think even one of them is carbohydrate.

What's wrong with my statements?

  • $\begingroup$ Question: What is a fatty acid and which elements do you find in it? $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Sep 28, 2014 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Similar question: what are the elements in glycerol? $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Sep 28, 2014 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Sir, fatty acid is a kind of lipids and I find C,H,O in it. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2014 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ There you have the carbohydrate part you are looking for. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Sep 28, 2014 at 20:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Phospholipids have lipids, of course, but those are bound to glycerol, a 3 carbon carbohydrate that is usually derived from glucose. Glycerol is the only carbohydrate (or even carbohydrate-like) part of the phospholipid. $\endgroup$ Sep 29, 2014 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


Your thinking is correct based on typical carbohydrates, but glycerol, the backbone of the phospholipid, is a 3-carbon carbohydrate that is usually derived from glucose. It is not a sugar, but it does fall into the general class of polyols (aka sugar alcohols) that are a type of carbohydrate.

A carbohydrate definitely is an important structural part of the phospholipid, but your instructor probably should have been more clear in describing why that is the case; I can definitely understand your confusion here.


There's nothing wrong in your statements! Maybe your professor was talking about glycolipids, that are lipids (also phospholipids) with a carbohydrate attached; they can be found on the outer surface of all eukaryotic cell membranes. They are important because they work as a recognition site for specific chemicals or for antibodies.


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