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Carbohydrates

Majid Ali, M.D.

Carbohydrate literally means "hydrate of carbon." However, carbohydrates do not contain individual water molecules. Carbohydrates are so designated because the empirical formulas of most of them can be expressed as Cx(H2O)y. The molecular formula of glucose is C6H12O6 (A in Figure 1).

 

Figure 1. Schematic (A) and Cyclic (B) Structure of Glucose

 

 

 

 

Diagram from 725 (25.16) and 726 (25.17)

 

Chang's Chemistry

 

 

 

 

 

The extraordinary structural complexities of carbohydrates are created by the nature of the process by which monosaccharides are aligned to form disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. For example, two identical monosaccharides can bond to produce 11 different disaccharides. Beyond that, monosaccharides create branching structures. Thus, a small number of monosaccharides can unite to create a staggering range of possible configurations to form various carbohydrate compounds. That is in sharp contrast to the case of two amino acids that can form only one dipeptide, or two nucleotides that can generate only one nucleic acid configuration. That is so because amino acids and nucleic acids connect to each other in only one way. To present two widely divergent scenarios, four different nucleotides can generate only 24 distinct tetranucleotides, whereas four different monosaccharides can be aligned in 35,560 unique tetrasaccharides. The "letters of the carbohydrate language" evidently are far more versatile than those in protein or nucleic acid worlds.

 

 

Glycoproteins and Proteoglycans

 

Most mammalian proteins contain sugar moieties and hence should be properly called glycoconjugates. There are two main types: glycoproteins and proteoglycans. In general, glycoproteins are highly branched and contain short oligosaccharide (glycan) chains without repeating sequences. By contrast, proteoglycans comprise long, linear, and unbranched glycans and do not contain repeating disaccharides. Glycoproteins include most of the molecules that serve as biomembrane receptors, hormones, and mediators of inflammatory and healing responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glycolipids

Glycolipids—also called glycosphingolipids— are lipids containing covalently bound sugars. Sphingolipids are a group of amphipathic, polar lipids. Glycolipids are divided into four groups: cerebrosides, sulfatides, globosides, and gangliosides. All contain a polar head group composed of sugars attached to ceramide by a glycosidic bond. Glycolipids—and glycoproteins—are not synthesized by template mechanisms as are nucleic acids and proteins. Rather, these compounds are generated by activities of enzymes—predominantly of glycotransferases—which are expressed or activated differentially during development, differentiation, and demise of cells.

Aldehydes

Chemically, carbohydrates are polyhydroxy aldehydes and polyhydroxy ketones. In solution, the aldehyde group of glucose at carbon 1 reacts with hydroxyl group at carbon 5 to form two cyclic structures designated á-D-glucose and â-D-glucose (B in Figure 1). The -OH group on the carbon 1 in the former is axial to the ring, whereas it is equatorial to the ring in the latter. Based on structure, carbohydrates are also divided into two broad classes: aromatic compounds that contain a ring (benzene or related) structure; and aliphatic compounds that do not contain such structures. In general, aromatic carbohydrates are more stable and resilient than their aliphatic counterparts. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that all vitamins except ascorbic acid have an aromatic configuration. This makes evolutionary sense, since vitamins not only facilitate biochemical reactions, but also serve as potent redox restorative, oxystatic, and defense molecules, especially as far as their roles as antioxidants. Most hormones are also aromatic. On the negative side, many pesticides (such as DDT) and many other synthetic chemicals (PCBs, PBBs, and related compounds) are also aromatic and thus stable and resilient. They have long half-lives and cause long-term toxicity.

 

Related Links

* What Is Insulin?

* What is Health?

* Carbohydrates

* What Is Glucose?

 

 

This information is provided only to provide information, it is never, ever to be used as a self help guideline. Always consult your own health care provider for information or questions on your health! Throughout this website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of nutritional supplements. These statements about nutritional supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

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