Carbohydrates are organic compounds that contain the elements carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for humans and animals.
in plants, they form starch and sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. in animals, they form glycogen (animal starch) and some animal fats.
However, although rich sources of carbs like potatoes and rice can provide enough energy to sustain life under normal conditions; but when physical activity is increased or during extreme weather conditions; muscle glycogen stores may be depleted resulting in fatigue or even death if carbohydrate intake is not increased accordingly.
while athletes eat more than non-athletes because their bodies need more fuel to support the demands of exercise; it’s also true that high levels of physical activity can increase your need for carbohydrates by 50% over sedentary people.
There is also a common misconception among endurance athletes that eating too many carbohydrates will lead to weight gain which could compromise performance during competition.
Most of us know about carbohydrates as a source of energy for our bodies. But did you know that there are two types? Monosaccharides and disaccharides? And that polysaccharides can be either straight or branched chains? If you’re like most people, then your answer to this question is no. This is because it’s hard to keep track of all these terms when they don’t really mean anything to you! They just sound like something scientists would discuss in their labs…
The monomer carbohydrate guide will help you understand everything there is to know about carbohydrates so that next time someone asks “What is the monomer of carbohydrates?” You’ll have an answer ready!
What is the monomer of Carbohydrates and what does it do?
A monomer is one of the basic building blocks of proteins. The sequence of amino acids in a polypeptide (protein) is specified by a gene and this gene’s DNA base sequence determines how the monomers are to be linked together. There are 20 common amino acids found in eukaryotes, each with its own name and chemical structure.
Proteins can be made up of hundreds or thousands of amino acids linked together so long as the final linker has an “end” that can undergo further addition or removal reactions without disrupting the overall integrity of the protein.
A good analogy for this would be Adobe Flash where you have different objects that can interact with other objects on your screen but need to know what object starts and ends them; this is handled by what is called an object’s timeline.
The amino acids can be thought of as objects and the final linker to the protein would be the timeline that other objects could interact with, but not disrupt.
A monomer represents one of these 20 common amino acids via its own name and chemical structure. For example, alanine has a backbone that contains three carbon atoms (C) in a straight chain.
Two hydrogen atoms attach at R1 while one atom forms R2. Alanine is amphipathic, meaning one end has a hydrophilic (water-loving) side while the other end is hydrophobic (water-hating). The lack of charge in this amino acid makes it an ideal candidate for bilayers in biomembranes.
Similarly, lysine has two long chains that project off the main backbone. One contains an R1 group with an -NH 3 + at R2 while the other contains an H 2 N- at that position. This amino acid is positively charged and therefore does not form stable bilayers easily compared to alanine.
A unique chemical reaction called Michael addition allows these two amino acids to be linked together in peptide bonds by taking advantage of their differences in polarity to form structures like peptide helices, hydrophobic pockets (where water is excluded) and the ability to associate with one another.
This process of linking together amino acids into long chains by forming covalent bonds between them is what is known as protein biosynthesis or translation. Transcription, translation and post-translational modifications are the three processes associated with protein synthesis that I will dive into in later posts!
One last thing about monomers before we move on – they have chemical properties that allow them to be modified via enzymes or other molecules. These modifications can control how much affinity a monomer has for other monomers.
The three different types of monomers and their function?
There are three different types of monomers, or molecules that can be joined together to form a polymer. The three types are vinyl (or vinylic), acrylic and amino.
Vinyl monomers contain one double bond within the molecule such as ethylene (ethene) or propene (propene). These molecules readily link up to other similarly structured molecules using heat, electricity or light as a source of energy.
When two ethylene monomers join together they form polyethylene, commonly known as polythene and when two propene monomers join together they form polypropylene. Vinyl monomers tend not to exist on their own in nature but they can be made from petroleum by cracking large hydrocarbon chains into smaller ones.
Acrylic monomers have two or more carbon-carbon double bonds within the molecule, such as methyl methacrylate. As with vinyl monomers, acrylic monomers readily link up to other similarly structured molecules using heat, electricity or light as a source of energy.
When two methyl methacrylate monomers join together they form polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Acrylic monomers consist largely of synthetic plastics, often derived from petroleum by cracking large hydrocarbons into smaller ones.
Amino monomers contain one amino group (-NH2) per molecule which can react with adjacent molecules to form peptide chains (-CO-NH-), these strings of bonded amino monomer units are commonly referred to as proteins.
Amino monomers do not readily link up to other similarly structured molecules using heat, electricity or light as a source of energy. Amino monomers are only found naturally occurring in organisms where they have been assembled by more complex biochemical processes.
When are carbohydrates broken down into two or more monomers?
Carbohydrates (sugars) are broken down into two or more monomers for use as an energy source through the process of glycolysis. This occurs in living organisms and is a major part of metabolism within cells.
The first step of glycolysis is the splitting of glucose into two three-carbon (C3) molecules called pyruvate, releasing a single molecule of ATP, which also acts as an alternative substrate to further break down glucose.
So, what are the Monosaccharides?
Monosaccharides are sugars or simple carbohydrates that cannot be hydrolyzed into simpler units by enzymes. Thus, monosaccharides contain at least two carbons and come in a linear form. They often have the general formula of C n (H 2 O) n .
There are three main types of monosaccharides: Aldoses, Ketoses, and Ketoaldoses. The aldose type is a sugar containing an aldehyde functional group whereas ketoaldose type is a sugar containing a keto-group in their structure.
Both types consist of one chiral atom since they can rotate polarized light in either direction. The third type is structurally a combination of the first two, containing both functional groups in their chemical structure. The three most prominent monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and ribose( serves as a backbone for nucleotides).
Examples: Glucose, Fructose, Ribose
So, what are Polysaccharides? Polysaccharides are linear or branched chains of monosaccharide units linked by glycosidic bonds. They consist of more than 10 monosaccharide units and can be classified into 3 types depending on the number of monosaccharide units they contain.
These three types include heteropolysaccharides (contain 2 different types of monosaccharide units), homopolysaccharides (contain only 1 type of monosaccharide units) and co-poly saccharides( contain more than 2 types of monosaccharide units).
Polysaccharides are responsible for numerous functions in living organisms such as energy storage, cell structure support and protection, building blocks for protein synthesis etc.
Examples: Starch, Glycogen, Cellulose
Starch is a polysaccharide that is made up of thousands to millions of glucose units linked together by glycosidic bonds. The presence of the alpha 1-4 glycosidic linkage makes starch digestible since both animals and humans lack the enzyme amylase which catalyzes the hydrolysis of the alpha 1-6 glycosidic linkages.
Glycogen is a branched polysaccharide that serves as a glucose storage in animals. Glycogen is formed through the biosynthesis pathway where enzymes catalyze each step starting from UDP-Glucose to produce glycogen.
Glycogen is stored in liver and muscles which are used for short term energy supply. For example, when you are running or doing something quickly your muscles will need more energy so glycogen comes into play!
The breakdown of glycogen occurs by removing the glucose unit by unit via enzyme glycogen phosphorylase (glycogenolysis). This releases glucose that can be converted into ATP (the main medium in cells to store energy) by conversion into glucose-6-phosphate.
Cellulose is the most abundant polymer in the world and is made up of beta1,4 linked glucose units. Cellulose serves an important role in plants by strengthening their cell walls and acting as a storage for glucose.
One example is trees, they use cellulose to form wood which can act as structural support during harsh weather conditions. Humans cannot digest cellulose but some animals such as cows have microorganisms called Trichonympha that live in their gut that produce enzymes called cellulases that facilitate the breakdown of cellulose into simpler sugars. These sugars are then used by the cow for energy usage or stored as fats since they cannot be directly utilized for energy.
Examples: Chitin, Chitosan, Dextran
Chitin is a homopolysaccharide which contains N-acetylglucosamine. It is an important structural component of cell walls in arthropods such as Annelids, Arachnids and Crustaceans including insects and lobsters.
The chitinous exoskeleton of some insects may be up to 20% of their body mass. Aside from serving a protective role for these animals, the chitin polymer also acts as a carbohydrate reserve since it can store glucose in its straight chain form instead of being bound together by glycosidic linkages like starch or glycogen.
All cells except mature red blood cells in humans and other vertebrates contain chitinase which is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of chitin into smaller polysaccharide fragments such as oligosaccharides.
Dextran is a homopolysaccharide made up of glucose molecules and can occur naturally in plants, bacteria and animals such as fish and humans. It is sometimes found in the blood plasma where it acts to increase viscosity (thickness) which can be beneficial when there is a trauma since it helps maintain fluid balance by slowing blood flow and preventing leakage from damaged vessels. However, if dextran levels get too high it can cause renal problems because it reduces glomerular filtration rate.
Chitosan is a linear polysaccharide which contains N-acetyl-D-glucosamine units. It can be found in the shells of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters and shrimp. The use of chitosan has been investigated for possible medicinal uses such as antimicrobial properties that may help prevent infections or urinary tract stones since it can bind to positively charged ions such as Calcium and Magnesium.
Chitosan has also been used in personal care industry because of its antibacterial properties which can be used in products like wound dressings, oral hygiene products and contact lens cleaning solutions.
The Monosaccharide Structure:
A monosaccharide is a simple sugar that cannot be hydrolyzed to smaller units. Monosaccharides are important fuel molecules as well as building blocks for nucleic acids and other complex biopolymers. They also serve as important bonding agents, keeping related structures together in monosacharide polymers.
The simplest example of a monosaccharide is the acyclic form of glucose (sometimes denoted by formula_1), which has the chemical formula
The most abundant cellular energy source is glucose, a 6-carbon molecule that can undergo glycolysis under both anaerobic conditions and aerobic conditions, providing energy from NADH from glycolysis step #1 and ATP via substrate-level phosphorylation in the citric acid cycle.
The acyclic form of glucose is one of the simplest monosaccharides, meaning it cannot be hydrolyzed to smaller subunits. However, it is also referred to as an aldohexose or ketohexose because it can be derived from fructose by reducing the carbonyl group at the 2 position using the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase
The carbons are numbered starting with 1 on the end closest to the aldehyde group
Chain extension reactions allow for other monosacharide units to be added onto a primary carbon chain, creating disaccharides and polysaccharides. β-linked monosaccharides can undergo anomerization reactions to create α-linked monosaccharides, as well as mutarotation which is the reversible epimerization of aldehyde groups (aldose & keto) into alcohol groups (diols/monools).
An example of this reaction occurs in raffinose, a trisaccharide composed of galactose, glucose and fructose. When β-galactose forms, the former hydroxyl group at carbon 1 becomes an aldehyde and creates a hemiacetal bond with carbon 4:
The enzyme alpha-galactosidase cleaves the α(1→4) glycosidic bond, releasing galactose from the non-reducing end and allowing for mutarotation to occur:
Complex carbohydrates are long unbranched polymers made up of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages. They can be identified as either heteropolysaccharides or homopolysaccharides. Heteropolysaccharides are made up of monosaccharide units from different classes while homopolysaccharides contain only one kind.
The Function of Monosaccharides:
Monosaccharides are the basic elements of carbohydrates. They consist only of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, making them very light molecules. Glucose is a monosaccharide with chemical formula C6H12O6.
Carbohydrates are classified as polysaccharides if they have more than two monosaccharide units bonded together by glycosidic bonds. When three or more monomers are connected, it is called oligosaccharides or polysaccharides depending on whether it is short or long in structure respectively.
The bonding between the sugar units requires one molecule to have at least one free OH group available for bonding by dehydration synthesis using 3-4 molecules each of 2-carbon atoms-acetyl phosphate.
Monosaccharides are the main source of energy for living cells. Glucose is the most crucial molecule in nature, as it is metabolized by almost all organisms to release energy. It has three forms: glucose, fructose and galactose.
Fructose and galactose can be converted into glucose by means of enzymatic reactions that take place in the human liver cell (hepatocytes). Glucose molecules can then enter glycolysis or gluconeogenesis pathways, which allow them to undergo oxidation.
They thus produce 36 units of ATP per molecule consumed if they are completely oxidized, compared to only 2 units generated by non-oxidative metabolism (glycogen synthesis or conversion of lactose to glucose in the mammary gland, for example).
Energy is transmitted in cells using ADP and inorganic phosphate. This produces ATP molecules, which provide energy for cellular functions. They can be produced either with oxygen or without it. Oxygen-requiring mechanisms are known as aerobic when they use pyruvate/acetyl-CoA derived from glycolysis or the Krebs cycle.
Aerobic metabolism generates 18 units of ATP per molecule of glucose, compared to only 2 units per molecule obtained by an anaerobic pathway (without oxygen), such as that taking place in muscle cells during high-intensity efforts that require short bursts of energy. Energy production is thus much higher with aerobic metabolism than anaerobic.
The 3 Important Monosaccharides:
Glucose is a simple sugar with the molecular formula of C 6 H 12 O 6 . This monosaccharide is known as dextrose and grape sugar. Glucose’s structure is similar to that of the other carbohydrates in that it involves a chain of carbon atoms (although not all carbons are involved in the chain, they simply lead up to another atom).
However, glucose has an asymmetric carbon at one end which forces this molecule to be chiral (it will only ever rotate polarized light clockwise). Glucose even has its own unique name: dextrose. Dextrose is simply another word for glucose, no matter how you slice it (pun intended).
Galactose is also a simple sugar but unlike glucose, galactose has an asymmetric carbon at both ends . Galactose’s chemical formula is C 6 H 12 O 6 just like glucose.
Fructose is another simple sugar and its chemical formula is C 6 H 12 O 6 just like glucose and galactose. Glucose forms a ring formation while fructose does not, forming a linear structure instead.
What happens when an individual consumes too many carbohydrates with just one type of monomer?
There is a possibility that this individual would suffer from a disease known as Diabetes Mellitus. In this disease, the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream rises due to an insufficient amount of insulin or because the cells are unable to absorb it.
This may happen for many reasons, but mostly because people do not exercise enough and eat too much rice/bread/pasta etc.; leading them to become obese and develop diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes can lead to numerous ailments including cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, blindness, renal failure, difficulty breathing etc. It also weakens the immune system by reducing white blood cell count (WBC).
How the body processes different types of sugars differently than others?
Different types of sugar can be processed in different ways by the body, but it is important to understand that the purpose of eating food (or drink) is not to produce energy for the body. The goal is to provide nutrients and substances that will help build cellular structures like proteins, fatty acids and nucleic acids .
Therefore when we look at carbohydrates  which are “chains” or polymers of carbon atoms, we will find three types: simple (monosaccharides), complex (disaccharides) and fiber (oligosaccharides).
Carbohydrates with six or more monosaccharide units linked together make up what we call starch , while cellulose  is a polysaccharide made up of β(1,4) linked glucose units with the general formula (C6H10O5)n.
The difference in these carbohydrates is not only their chemical structure but also the way the body digests them. Starch is broken down into its simple sugar components (glucose), while fiber can’t be broken down by enzymes and passes through to our intestinal tract where it acts as food for our gut bacteria .
Now let’s focus on monosacchrides or simply “sugars” which are one unit chains of carbohydrate called “simple sugars”. Monosaccharide units are joined together by glycosidic bonds Common monosaccharides in human nutrition include glucose (blood sugar), fructose, and galactose .
For example glucose is a major carbohydrate in our diet. Glucose is made up of carbon atoms, hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms strung together in a particular way: C 6 H 12 O 6 .
If you cut off one of these monosaccharide units from this single glucose chain you have what we call a “monosacharide” – for example if you remove the hydroxyl group (-OH) & reducing end (-H) from the open-chain structure then you have GLUCOSE which looks like this: C 6 H 12 O 5 .
The suffix “-ose” means that it’s a type of sugar molecule. If you remove two hydroxyl groups & the reducing end then you have Fructose which is like this: C 6 H 12 O 4 .
Glucose, fructose and galactose are all monosaccharides but they are not exactly the same. Galactose is just one of glucose’s many monomers  , while fructose has a slightly different chemical structure than glucose .
Since fructose and galactose both contain six carbons atoms each, that means that both should behave similarly in the body. This will be important when we look at sugar alcohols  later on.
It is important to know the monomer of carbohydrates if you want to understand how they are processed in your body. With knowledge on what a carbohydrate is and its basic structure, one can make informed decisions about dieting and weight loss. These tips will help you get started with understanding carbohydrates and their place in your life.
If all of this sounds intimidating or overwhelming then please reach out for more information from our team of experts that specialize in nutrition counseling who would be happy to guide you through the process!