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An In Depth Look At Carbohydrates

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Carbohydrates rich food

You may have been aware of the term “Carbohydrates” and you know that they are abundant in different food sources. Aside from that, you should be able to understand that there are actually a lot of benefits of having enough carbohydrates in your body. These components play a significant role for the body to be able to maintain its normal functioning. They perform several roles in maintaining body structure and facilitating the process of metabolism.

Carbohydrates are considered to be a group of different molecules which are mainly made of starch and sugar. They also contain important elements including Oxygen, Hydrogen and even Carbon. Because they are made of significant elements and components, carbohydrates are proven to be truly essential in different body processes. As you may have noticed, the element content can be reflected in the name of the substance. The term Carbohydrates can actually be derived from Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen.

Classifications of carbohydrates
Like any other substances, carbohydrates are also known to have different classifications which include the monosaccharide, disaccharide, oligosaccharide and lastly, the polysaccharide. The prefixes tell about the number of sugars present in every compound. In this case, it would mean that monosaccharide has one sugar, disaccharide has two sugars, oligosaccharide has few sugars while polysaccharide has a lot of sugars. The monosaccharide which is known to have one sugar is considered to be the building blocks of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates can have various structures. They can either be globular in shape or they can also be fibrous depending on the bond that the components of the carbohydrates have. It is said that the larger the carbohydrate compound is, the lesser soluble it becomes in water. This is due to the fact that the components form a thicker structure as compared to those with lesser amounts of sugar. They are not entirely associated with sugars because they can also be related to proteins as well.

Simple sugars
First of all, the building blocks of the carbohydrates known as monosaccharides are considered to be the simplest form.  They are called simple sugars because they are just made of one sugar component. If you are to describe the structure of simple carbohydrates, you can be able to see that there are ketones or aldehyde components.  The monosaccharides also have hydroxyl groups in their structure which are abundantly found in the said simple sugar. Because there are large amounts of hydroxyl groups, it means that the entire structure is greatly soluble in different aqueous solutions.

The structure of a monosaccharide contains about three to seven carbon atoms arranged in single chain or even single ring structure. The ratio of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen content of monosaccharides is 1:2:1. This leads you to the formula of a simple sugar or a monosaccharide which is (CH2O)n. This simple p is classified and named based upon their carbon atom content.

 They are single chain or single ring structures containing from 3 to 7 carbon atoms. Usually the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms occur in the ratio 1:2:1. So a general formula for a monosaccharide is (CH2O)n where n is the number of carbons in the sugar.  In this case, if there are three atoms of Carbon, it will be called Triose. If there are four Carbon atoms, it is called Tetrose. Then, the five, six and seven Carbon containing compounds are named as Pentose, Hexose and Heptose respectively. Most important in the body are the pentose and hexose sugars.

The defining characteristic of a monosaccharide structure is that it has one asymmetric Carbon atom which leads to the formation of two isomers which could either be in D or L form. From the two common forms of the monosaccharide, the D-isomer is the most common and abundant in the human body. When it comes to structure, the smallest form is the three carbon chain known as glyceraldehydes and dihydroxyacetone. On the other hand, the large forms with five to six carbons are usually known to form a chain because this is where they are more stable. The six carbon ring is known as the pyranose while the five carbon ring is known as the furanose.

Glucose regulation
Some of the most common monosaccharides are the glucose, fructose and galactose. Glucose is aldohexose which means it has six carbons. The ring is formed spontaneously with the functional group on the first carbon. Fructose is known as a five membered furanose as the second carbon becomes asymmetric in the ring. Lastly, galactose is an aldohexose that is also one of the most common monosaccharides.

Moving on, the second type of carbohydrates is the disaccharides. They are carbohydrates with two molecules of sugar. These two sugars are joined together by the means of the removal of the water molecule between the groups of hydroxyl. This means as the water molecule is broken down, a new bond is created. The bond that is created between the two sugar molecules is known as the glycosidic bond. One example of a disaccharide is sucrose which is made from two basic sugars or monosaccharides known as glucose and fructose.

The third type of carbohydrate is the polysaccharides which contains a lot of sugar molecules. They can contain about a hundred sugar molecules giving them a structure with a very long chain or ring of monosaccharides or simple sugars that are joined by the means of dehydration synthesis. The bonds that exist between the sugar molecules are known as glycosidic bonds. The polysaccharides are considered to be large molecules thus they are very ideal for storage. They are very important in storage of energy and in the formation of the structure of the organism. Some of the few examples of polysaccharides are glycogen and starch which are mainly found in plants. They serve as the main source of metabolic energy and are considered as both polymers of glucose.

Glycogen stored energy
Glycogen, as a polysaccharide is the storage carbohydrate found in animal tissues primarily in the liver and muscle cells. It is a very large structure with different branches like that of starch. Glycogen serves a very important function in conditions when blood sugar levels instantly drop. Glycogen eventually is broken down and release into the blood stream as glucose to compensate for the decreased blood glucose levels.


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