Structure and function

Carbohydrates are defined as compounds that are composed of simple sugars (monosaccharides). They were initially named this because they contain both carbon (carbo) and H2O (water), as shown in Figure 2.1.

Until recently, most medical textbooks focused primarily on the nutrient/energy roles played by three simple sugars (glucose, fructose, and galactose), three disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, and maltose), as well as the fiber/energy roles of complex carbohydrates (cellulose, glycogen, and starch). Over 200 simple carbohydrates are now known to be produced by plants. Eight of these carbohydrates (galactose, glucose, mannose, N-acetylneuraminic acid, fructose 6, N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, and xylose) are now recognized as being essential for health, and new roles for carbohydrates are constantly being discovered (1).

FIGURE 2.1 Glucose.

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