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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Discuss the role of carbohydrates in cells and in the extracellular materials of animals and plants
  • Explain the classifications of carbohydrates
  • List common monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides

Most people are familiar with carbohydrates, one type of macromolecule, especially when it comes to what we eat. To lose weight, some individuals adhere to “low-carb” diets. Athletes, in contrast, often “carb-load” before important competitions to ensure that they have enough energy to compete at a high level. Carbohydrates are, in fact, an essential part of our diet; grains, fruits, and vegetables are all natural sources of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body, particularly through glucose, a simple sugar that is a component of starch    and an ingredient in many staple foods. Carbohydrates also have other important functions in humans, animals, and plants.

Molecular structures

Carbohydrates can be represented by the stoichiometric formula (CH 2 O) n , where n is the number of carbons in the molecule. In other words, the ratio of carbon to hydrogen to oxygen is 1:2:1 in carbohydrate molecules. This formula also explains the origin of the term “carbohydrate”: the components are carbon (“carbo”) and the components of water (hence, “hydrate”). Carbohydrates are classified into three subtypes: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.


Monosaccharides (mono- = “one”; sacchar- = “sweet”) are simple sugars, the most common of which is glucose. In monosaccharides, the number of carbons usually ranges from three to seven. Most monosaccharide names end with the suffix -ose. If the sugar has an aldehyde group (the functional group with the structure R-CHO), it is known as an aldose, and if it has a ketone group (the functional group with the structure RC(=O)R'), it is known as a ketose. Depending on the number of carbons in the sugar, they also may be known as trioses (three carbons), pentoses (five carbons), and or hexoses (six carbons). See [link] for an illustration of the monosaccharides.

The molecular structures of glyceraldehyde, an aldose, and dihydroxyacetone, a ketose, are shown. Both sugars have a three-carbon backbone. Glyceraldehyde has a carbonyl group (c double bonded to O) at one end of the carbon chain with hydroxyl (OH) groups attached to the other carbons. Dihydroxyacetone has a carbonyl group in the middle of the chain and alcohol groups at each end. The molecular structures of linear forms of ribose, a pentose, and glucose, a hexose, are also shown. Both ribose and glucose are aldoses with a carbonyl group at the end of chain,and hydroxyl groups attached to the other carbons.
Monosaccharides are classified based on the position of their carbonyl group and the number of carbons in the backbone. Aldoses have a carbonyl group (indicated in green) at the end of the carbon chain, and ketoses have a carbonyl group in the middle of the carbon chain. Trioses, pentoses, and hexoses have three, five, and six carbon backbones, respectively.

The chemical formula for glucose is C 6 H 12 O 6 . In humans, glucose is an important source of energy. During cellular respiration, energy is released from glucose, and that energy is used to help make adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Plants synthesize glucose using carbon dioxide and water, and glucose in turn is used for energy requirements for the plant. Excess glucose is often stored as starch that is catabolized (the breakdown of larger molecules by cells) by humans and other animals that feed on plants.

Galactose (part of lactose, or milk sugar) and fructose (found in sucrose, in fruit) are other common monosaccharides. Although glucose, galactose, and fructose all have the same chemical formula (C 6 H 12 O 6 ), they differ structurally and chemically (and are known as isomers) because of the different arrangement of functional groups around the asymmetric carbon; all of these monosaccharides have more than one asymmetric carbon ( [link] ).

Questions & Answers

Please what is ovulation
Adusei Reply
What is cell division?
What is copulation?
what is a metaborism
Beatrice Reply
this is a specialized part of the cell eg Nucleus
David Reply
what are the organelles?
Faith Reply
what is reproduction
mana Reply
reproduction is the process by which living organisms give rise to young ones of their own kind
What is evolution
the production of new forms of life over time as documented in the fossil record.
give two parasites where secondary host is water snail?
Kevin Reply
what is treats
Raih Reply
what are the organelles in cell that involves in protein sythenis
Rita Reply
what is a melanin?
Judith Reply
what is telophase
melanin in that black color we posse in our skins
Why do parasites take on a parasitic life?
Asadullah Reply
what is cell
Ousman Reply
A cell is the basic structure unit of an organ
what is respiration
what is organisms?
Organisms are living things that can function on their own
A cell is a functional basic unit of an organisms.
Organisms is a entity which consists of one or more cells and are able to undergo all life processes
A respiration is the physical and chemical break down of complex food substance into absorbable or simple form.
What will to a cell if the nucleus is removed..?
Goodrick Reply
When a cell nucleus removed then the cell will not be able to function properly, it will not be able to grow .All the metabolic functioning of the cell will stop .Without nucleus the cell will lose it's control. It can not carry out cellular reproduction .
defin peroxesome
write a short note on how the kidney carry out osmoregulation in man
Rhoda Reply
Kidney play a very large role in human osoregulation by regulating the amount of water reabsorbed from glomerular filtrate in kidney as tubules, which is controlled by hormones such as antrdiuvetic hormone (ADH) , aldosterone and angiotensin.
kidney is capable of osmoregulation in mammal ,
simple definition for respiratory system
Gift Reply
Respiratory system is a network of organs and tissues that helps you to breathe or help in getting the rids of oxygen and discharge of carbon dioxide in the body.
What are uses of respiratory system
how it functions
what is inresparetion
Why do parasites take on a parasitic life?
A respiratory system is a biological system consisting of specific organs and structures used for gas exchange in animals and plant
diseases of respiration
when air enters to the body called inresparetion
explain why plants responds to stimuli slowly than animals
how is a aerenchyma tissue adapted to its function
fatuma Reply
Have large air spaces that store air for gaseous exchange... Large air spaces also facilitate bouyancy.

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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