2

votes

what is waxy fat

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 14, 2011 at 12:36 AM

I have noticed that some fat has a more waxy texture. I have found this in the body cavity of lamb, on beef ribs, and especially on beef heart. In a bucket of beef tallow (that was liquid and allowed to solidify in the bucket) I have found that the fat near the top is waxier than the fat at the bottom, so I suspect this waxy fat may have sorted itself out by different density or freezing point.

What is the chemical property that makes it waxy? What is the biological reason for (some kinds of?) animals to accumulate it in some areas of the body? Is it normal to have trouble digesting it? Are there any other health implications to eating it?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 15, 2011
at 07:29 PM

So I should eat candles next time I play Scrabble with my friends? Just joking. Thanks for the response.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:47 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle ingredients, tallow is the best calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is absorbed somewhat but not entirely. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:36 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle ingredients, tallow is the only good calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:35 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle waxes, tallow is the only good calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:34 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the candle waxes, tallow is the only good calorie sources. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:29 AM

Regarding candle eating, I just learned there's a name for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. (Well, it really means "wax eating.") When it comes to candle wax, tallow is a great energy source (it's pemmican without the meat). Stearin are absorbed somewhat (that particular triglyceride is rare in nature and our enzymes don't break it apart very well). Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, just pass on through. (However there's at least one bird that has microflora that digest beeswax. I wonder if some people have similar microflora.)

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:05 AM

Thanks for the thanks, Paul. :) Your comment made me curious, so I entered "ate candles" and "eating candles" into Google Book Search. Lo and behold, you're right, lots of books popped up with accounts of hungry people who ate candles. For example, in a 19th century British prison, prisoners used to mix their gruel or cocoa with a candle, making the wax melt, then they ate the whole thing.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 10:41 AM

Thanks for the thanks, Paul. :) Your comment made me curious, so I entered "ate candles" and "eating candles" into Google Book Search. Lo and behold, you're right, lots of books popped up with accounts of hungry people who had to eat candles. For example, in a 19th century British prison, prisoners used to mix their gruel or cocoa with a candle, making the wax melt, then they ate the whole thing.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 15, 2011
at 08:14 AM

Me too, jon w, but I always assumed it wasn't getting digested.

E4b155f898e209391902792ec3c005f3

(220)

on February 15, 2011
at 01:08 AM

I've eaten beeswax with honey many times.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 09:54 PM

Right, of course, no commercial candles for me. But it's kind of cool to think that traditionally made candles could be edible. I wonder if there are stories of people eating candles during famine or the siege of a city, like there are stories about people eating wallpaper, etc. Thanks for all your interesting posts and comments.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:10 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would be wary of eating commercial candles unless the manufactuer says they are edible. I would guess that most commercial candles have additional chemicals in them that are unsafe to eat, and that when manufacturers put those edible ingredients in their candles, they probably use non-food-grade versions which could contain harmful contaminants.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:09 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would guess that most commercial candles have additional chemicals in them that are unsafe to eat. And when manufacturers put those edible ingredients in their candles, they probably use non-food-grade versions which could contain harmful contaminants.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:06 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would guess that most commercial candles, even those which are made from those three ingredients, contain additional chemicals that aren't safe to eat. And when those edible ingredients are used in commercial candles, food-grade versions probably aren't used.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:03 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I think probably most commercial candles aren't made from food-grade ingredients. And I would guess that they contain additional chemicals that aren't safe to eat.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 07:59 PM

Lots of substances that are used to make candle wax are edible -- stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules), beeswax, paraffin, etc. -- so if you buy food-grade versions of those things, you could make edible candles. But I think probably most commercial candles are made from a mixture of chemicals to control the burn rate, etc., and they might be toxic.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 06:38 PM

If you can find candles that are made from 100% stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) then theoretically yeah, you could. Beeswax is another edible ingredient used for candle wax. But there are three problems: (1) nowadays most candles include other stuff like paraffin, etc. (2) the stearin used in candles probably isn't food grade so it might contain toxins; (3) humans don't digest stearin very well. This last point is relevant to jon's original question; there are a bunch of papers about digestion of stearic acid in the biomedical literature.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 06:04 PM

This might be a stupid question, but: can we eat candles?

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 06:02 PM

Can we eat candles?

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:36 AM

Thank you sir! It looks that way, in cattle and lambs at least. I'll try to find some studies about pigs.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:24 AM

It looks that way. In lamb and cattle, at least. I'll try to find some studies about pigs.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:07 AM

It looks that way, yeah. In cattle and lambs, at least. I'll try to find more studies.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:04 AM

It looks that way. I wish I could have found more studies than just these two. (I added one since your comment.) I'll try to find more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:03 AM

It looks way. I wish I could have found more studies than just these two. Maybe I'll try to find more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:39 AM

It looks that way. In cattle, at least. I based this answer on just that one study. It's all I could find. Maybe somebody else can find others. It seems like the kind of thing Cordain is interested in -- maybe he has published references somewhere.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:37 AM

It looks that way. In cattle, at least. I based this answer on that one study. It's all I could find. If I have time I'll look for more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:35 AM

In those cows, at least, yeah. I wish I could have found data for other species but it took an hour to find that one table and life is short. :)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 09:54 AM

Aha, and palmitic (16:0) and the other ones stay pretty much constant. Very interesting, thank you.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 01:13 AM

Hi, Ambimorph, I just fixed the link by adding a couple of w's.

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5 Answers

best answer

5
82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:38 AM

What is the chemical property that makes it waxy?

Stearic acid. It's very waxy. Candle wax and crayons are made from it.

In cattle, waxy fat contains more stearic acid and less oleic acid. Oleic acid is unsaturated and liquid at room temperature, so the less there is, the harder the fat.

Here's a table that compares fat from three places in the bodies of cattle. As you can see, the waxier fats have about twice as much stearic acid (C18:0) and 25% less oleic acid (C18:1).

what-is-waxy-fat

Here's a quote from a study about lamb fat:

...perinephric fat [suet] contained more stearic and less oleic, palmitoleic, palmitic and myristic acid than subcutaneous fat.

Here's a table from a different study about lamb. The numbers circled in red show that kidney fat (suet) contains more than twice as much stearic acid as some subcutaneous fat.

what-is-waxy-fat

References:

Ashes JR, Thompson RH, et al. A comparison of fatty acid profiles and carcass characteristics of feedlot steers fed canola seed and sunflower seed meal supplements protected from metabolism in the rumen. Aust J Agric Res (1993). 44; 1103-12.

L'Estrange JL and Mulvihill TA. A survey of fat characteristics of lamb with particular reference to the soft fat condition in intensively fed lambs. The Journal of Agricultural Science (1975), 84:281-290.

Popova et al. Content and fatty acid composition of different fat depots of lambs receiving fish oil supplemented diet. Bulgarian Journal of Agricultural Science. 2008. 14(1):100-107.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:37 AM

It looks that way. In cattle, at least. I based this answer on that one study. It's all I could find. If I have time I'll look for more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:36 AM

Thank you sir! It looks that way, in cattle and lambs at least. I'll try to find some studies about pigs.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:39 AM

It looks that way. In cattle, at least. I based this answer on just that one study. It's all I could find. Maybe somebody else can find others. It seems like the kind of thing Cordain is interested in -- maybe he has published references somewhere.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 10:35 AM

In those cows, at least, yeah. I wish I could have found data for other species but it took an hour to find that one table and life is short. :)

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 09:54 PM

Right, of course, no commercial candles for me. But it's kind of cool to think that traditionally made candles could be edible. I wonder if there are stories of people eating candles during famine or the siege of a city, like there are stories about people eating wallpaper, etc. Thanks for all your interesting posts and comments.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 09:54 AM

Aha, and palmitic (16:0) and the other ones stay pretty much constant. Very interesting, thank you.

E4b155f898e209391902792ec3c005f3

(220)

on February 15, 2011
at 01:08 AM

I've eaten beeswax with honey many times.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:03 AM

It looks way. I wish I could have found more studies than just these two. Maybe I'll try to find more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:09 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would guess that most commercial candles have additional chemicals in them that are unsafe to eat. And when manufacturers put those edible ingredients in their candles, they probably use non-food-grade versions which could contain harmful contaminants.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:04 AM

It looks that way. I wish I could have found more studies than just these two. (I added one since your comment.) I'll try to find more.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 06:38 PM

If you can find candles that are made from 100% stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) then theoretically yeah, you could. Beeswax is another edible ingredient used for candle wax. But there are three problems: (1) nowadays most candles include other stuff like paraffin, etc. (2) the stearin used in candles probably isn't food grade so it might contain toxins; (3) humans don't digest stearin very well. This last point is relevant to jon's original question; there are a bunch of papers about digestion of stearic acid in the biomedical literature.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 15, 2011
at 08:14 AM

Me too, jon w, but I always assumed it wasn't getting digested.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:35 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle waxes, tallow is the only good calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:07 AM

It looks that way, yeah. In cattle and lambs, at least. I'll try to find more studies.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:34 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the candle waxes, tallow is the only good calorie sources. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 11:24 AM

It looks that way. In lamb and cattle, at least. I'll try to find some studies about pigs.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:06 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would guess that most commercial candles, even those which are made from those three ingredients, contain additional chemicals that aren't safe to eat. And when those edible ingredients are used in commercial candles, food-grade versions probably aren't used.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 15, 2011
at 07:29 PM

So I should eat candles next time I play Scrabble with my friends? Just joking. Thanks for the response.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 06:02 PM

Can we eat candles?

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:03 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I think probably most commercial candles aren't made from food-grade ingredients. And I would guess that they contain additional chemicals that aren't safe to eat.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 06:04 PM

This might be a stupid question, but: can we eat candles?

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:29 AM

Regarding candle eating, I just learned there's a name for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. (Well, it really means "wax eating.") When it comes to candle wax, tallow is a great energy source (it's pemmican without the meat). Stearin are absorbed somewhat (that particular triglyceride is rare in nature and our enzymes don't break it apart very well). Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, just pass on through. (However there's at least one bird that has microflora that digest beeswax. I wonder if some people have similar microflora.)

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:36 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle ingredients, tallow is the only good calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is poorly absorbed because it's rare in nature and our enzymes don't break that particular triglyceride apart very well. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 08:10 PM

You could certainly make edible candles. You could make them from food-grade stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules) or beeswax or paraffin or other types of edible wax. All of those things are used to make candles. But I would be wary of eating commercial candles unless the manufactuer says they are edible. I would guess that most commercial candles have additional chemicals in them that are unsafe to eat, and that when manufacturers put those edible ingredients in their candles, they probably use non-food-grade versions which could contain harmful contaminants.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:47 AM

Regarding wax eating, I just learned there's a word for it: cerophagy. Try that on your friends next time you play Scrabble. :) Of the main candle ingredients, tallow is the best calorie source. It's pemmican without the meat. Stearin is absorbed somewhat but not entirely. Beeswax and paraffin, like Paul said, are reported to pass through unchanged. However there's a bird with gut flora that digest beeswax and I wonder if gut flora with similar properties might exist in some humans also.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 14, 2011
at 07:59 PM

Lots of substances that are used to make candle wax are edible -- stearin (the triglyceride that contains three stearic acid molecules), beeswax, paraffin, etc. -- so if you buy food-grade versions of those things, you could make edible candles. But I think probably most commercial candles are made from a mixture of chemicals to control the burn rate, etc., and they might be toxic.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 10:41 AM

Thanks for the thanks, Paul. :) Your comment made me curious, so I entered "ate candles" and "eating candles" into Google Book Search. Lo and behold, you're right, lots of books popped up with accounts of hungry people who had to eat candles. For example, in a 19th century British prison, prisoners used to mix their gruel or cocoa with a candle, making the wax melt, then they ate the whole thing.

82166cc32b6cf26de33b69f58fb583b1

on February 15, 2011
at 11:05 AM

Thanks for the thanks, Paul. :) Your comment made me curious, so I entered "ate candles" and "eating candles" into Google Book Search. Lo and behold, you're right, lots of books popped up with accounts of hungry people who ate candles. For example, in a 19th century British prison, prisoners used to mix their gruel or cocoa with a candle, making the wax melt, then they ate the whole thing.

3
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on February 14, 2011
at 12:57 AM

It's suet, the harder fat around the abdominal organs. I'm not sure why it has a different texture. It might be more saturated.

This thread leads me to believe other people also have a harder time digesting it. In fact, now that you mention it, I think I remember some folks on the zero-carb forum reporting heartburn from pemmican made with suet, which is a shame, since it stays hard better.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on February 14, 2011
at 01:13 AM

Hi, Ambimorph, I just fixed the link by adding a couple of w's.

1
D04cf109e443df341633847c0fd739d2

on February 14, 2011
at 06:47 AM

It sounds like you have found viseral fat, which accumlates around and protects the organs, which is different from subqutaneous fat.

0
Medium avatar

on February 14, 2011
at 04:02 AM

I've noticed that eating certain cuts puts a waxy film on my hands and silverware. Those ones happen to have bones and connective tissue interspersed throughout.

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on February 14, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Sounds like you are talking about cholesterol which is a waxy fat. I personally have no issues consuming cholesterol. My body digests it easily just as it digests other fats. Most of the cholesterol in the body is actually created by the body itself so, despite what ill informed doctors like to say, actual dietary cholesterol intake has only a minor influence on overall body cholesterol levels. Many healthful foods, like organ meats, are high in cholesterol.

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