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After studying this chapter, you should be able to:


  • Explain what is meant by the terms monosaccharide, disaccharide, oligosaccharide and polysaccharide.
  • Explain the different ways in which the structures of glucose and other monosaccharides can be represented, and describe the various types of isomerism of sugars and the pyranose and furanose ring structures.
  • Describe the formation of glycosides and the structures of the important disaccharides and polysaccharides.
  • Explain what is meant by the glycemic index of a carbohydrate.
  • Describe the roles of carbohydrates in cell membranes and lipoproteins.


Carbohydrates are widely distributed in plants and animals; they have important structural and metabolic roles. In plants, glucose is synthesized from carbon dioxide and water by photosynthesis and stored as starch or used to synthesize the cellulose of the plant cell walls. Animals can synthesize carbohydrates from amino acids, but most are derived ultimately from plants. Glucose is the most important carbohydrate; most dietary carbohydrate is absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose formed by hydrolysis of dietary starch and disaccharides, and other sugars are converted to glucose in the liver. Glucose is the major metabolic fuel of mammals (except ruminants) and a universal fuel of the fetus. It is the precursor for synthesis of all the other carbohydrates in the body, including glycogen for storage; ribose and deoxyribose in nucleic acids; galactose for synthesis of lactose in milk, in glycolipids, and in combination with protein in glycoproteins and proteoglycans. Diseases associated with carbohydrate metabolism include diabetes mellitus, galactosemia, glycogen storage diseases, and lactose intolerance.


Carbohydrates are classified as follows:


  1. Monosaccharides are those sugars that cannot be hydrolyzed into simpler carbohydrates. They may be classified as trioses, tetroses, pentoses, hexoses, or heptoses, depending upon the number of carbon atoms (3–7), and as aldoses or ketoses, depending upon whether they have an aldehyde or ketone group. Examples are listed in Table 14–1. In addition to aldehydes and ketones, the polyhydric alcohols (sugar alcohols or polyols), in which the aldehyde or ketone group has been reduced to an alcohol group, also occur naturally in foods. They are synthesized by reduction of monosaccharides for use in the manufacture of foods for weight reduction and for diabetics. They are poorly absorbed, and have about half the energy yield of sugars.

  2. Disaccharides are condensation products of two monosaccharide units, for example, lactose, maltose, sucrose, and trehalose.

  3. Oligosaccharides are condensation products of three to ten monosaccharides. Most are not digested by human enzymes.

  4. Polysaccharides are condensation products of more than ten monosaccharide units; examples are the starches and dextrins, which may be linear or branched polymers. Polysaccharides are sometimes classified as hexosans or pentosans, depending on the identity of the constituent monosaccharides (hexoses and pentoses, respectively). In addition to starches and dextrins, foods contain a wide variety of other polysaccharides that are collectively known as nonstarch polysaccharides; they are not digested by human enzymes, and are the major component of dietary fiber. ...

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