Lipolysis consists of the breakdown of triacylglycerols by lipases and phospholipids by phospholipases, resulting in the generation of free fatty acids. These fatty acids may contribute directly to taste and indirectly to the generation of aroma compounds through further oxidation reactions. Main lipolytic enzymes located in muscle and adipose tissue and involved in these phenomena are listed in Table 3. These enzymes show good stability through the full process (52-54). Although their activity also depends on pH, salt con-cetration, and water activity, the conditions found in the hams favor their action (55). The generation rate of free fatty acids in the muscle, especially oleic, linoleic, estearic, and palmitic acids, increases for up to 10 months during the process. Most of these fatty acids proceed from phospholipids degradation (3). After this time, a reverse trend is observed due to further oxidative reactions (53,56). In the case of adipose tissue, the rate of generation, especially of oleic, palmitic, limoleic, stearic, palmitoleic, and myristic acids, is also high up to 6 months (54). In the same way, a decrease in 14% of the triacylglycerols is observed (57).
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