Analytical data


The N-Value gives the percentage of fat which is solid or in the crystallised form at a given temperature:
N20= 35 indicates that 35% of the fat is in crystallised form at 20°C (the amount of solids at that temperature)
These values are measured with NMR-equipment (after heating to 60°C, stored for one hour at 0°C and half hour at measuring temperature).
These values are not always the same as the SFC-values (solid fats content) as used in the USA and measured on a different way.

Water is fully crystallising at 0°C (one type of molecule: H2O). But fat, consisting of a mixture of different triglycerides, has a melting or crystallising range. The lower the temperature the more triglycerides are crystallised and so the larger the part of the fat in the solid form.


The N-line is a line indicating the solids as function of temperature; usually a few N-values are used: N10, N20, N30 and N35. Examples are given in other pages.

Melting point

A few types of melting points are used in the literature:

  • The Slip melting point: in practice the temperature where only a few percent of the fat is in the solids form. Practically this melting point can be derived from the N-line (the melting point is the temperature where 3-5% solids are present).
  • The Wiley melting point, mainly used in the USA; gives a few degrees higher temperature than the slip melting point.
    More detailed information can be obtained from standard handbooks on fats.

Fatty acids

Different types of fatty acids are present in the triglycerides or triacylglycerols:

  • Safa = saturated fatty acids, e.g. C16.0 or C18.0, but also C12.0 (lauric acid)
  • Mufa = mono unsaturated fatty acids; with one “double bound”, like C18.1:
    - Cis form = the natural form of unsaturation
    - Trans form = the form obtained by the hardening process.
    This trans form is also present in animal fats on a level of about 3-5%.
  • Pufa = poly unsaturated fatty acids; with more “double bounds”, like C18.2 or C18.3

Triglycerides or triacylglycerols

The oils and fats consist of a chemical combination of glycerol with 3 fatty acid chains: triglycerides or triacylglycerols.
The type of fatty acids on the glycerol molecule (so the composition of the triglycerides) determines the crystallisation behaviour of fats and so the N-line.
Each fat or modified oil/fat consists of a large variety of triglycerides; this results therefore in melting or crystallisation range (actually the N-line).
Palmoil is a fat with a rather simple composition of triglycerides; the main ones are:

  • Trisaturated triglycerides, with 3 saturated fatty acids (mainly palmitic=C16.0). The melting of this type of triglycerides is about 60°C. But because there is only about 10% present, the melting point of palm oil is about 38°C
  • Disaturated-monounsaturated triglycerides (mainly consisting of palmitic and oleic acid). The melting point of this type of triglycerides is about 35°C.
    About 45% of this type is present.
  • Monosaturated-diunsaturated triglycerides (also mainly consisting of palmitic and oleic acid). The melting of these triglycerides is lower than the ones before; around 10-15°C
  • Triunsaturated triglycerides (mainly consisting of oleic and linoleic acid).
    The melting point is even below 0°C.
    Soybean oil consist of this type of triglycerides for a high percentage and does not show crystals, when it is stored in the refrigerator

If Palmoil is partially hardened then a little bit more of the first group is formed and, because a large percentage of the oleic fatty acid (cis form) is transformed in elaidic fatty acid (trans form), the second group will be at least for 50% palmitic-elaidic-palmitic triglyceride with a higher melting point than palmitic-oleic-palmitic triglyceride and so more in crystallised form at 20-35°C.

Simplified fatty acids and triglycerides

In literature and patents simplified fatty acids and triglycerides are used, in which the large number of fatty acids and triglycerides are grouped in order to be able to discuss easier the effects on crystallisation and hardness: click for details.

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Copyright 2002 Gabrie Lansbergen Fats for Foods Consultant

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