- Disaccharides have two molecules.
- Trisaccharides have three molecules
- Oligosaccharides have up to 6 monosaccharide molecules.
Oligosaccharides are found mainly in breast milk and plants. These coat the mucus membranes and are present in saliva. By linking monosaccharide molecules together, sometimes in the hundreds and thousands, a very large molecule is formed called a polysaccharide.
Starch and glycogen are polysaccharide molecules stored in the liver to be used as fuel when the need arises. Cellulose is another polysaccharide molecule that cannot be digested by humans because they do not have the necessary enzyme to do so.
Simple sugars save the body the extra step of breaking down a compound sugar. Some simple sugars can be found in the following:
- Fructose (fruit sugar or levulose) comes from fruits (especially dried), vegetables, and honey
- Galactose comes from plants.
- Glucose is the type measured in the blood and commonly called dextrose on labels. It is found in fruits and honey.
- Mannose comes from the manna ash tree and is always converted into mannitol, a sugar alcohol, by the body before use.
Compound sugars include:
- Lactose (glucose and galactose) is also known as “milk sugar.”
- Lactulose (galactose and fructose) is not found in nature, but is manufactured.
- Maltose (two molecules of glucose) is also known as malt sugar found in malt, grains, and fruits.
- Sucrose (glucose and fructose) is found in sugar cane, sugar beets, and maple syrup.
Sugars are important, but only glucose and galactose are abundant in the average modern diet. The brain uses only glucose and glutamic acid (an amino acid) for fuel. It cannot use fat even though the brain is comprised of 60% fat. If there is no glucose in the diet, the body makes it by converting protein to the brain fuel it needs. On the other hand, high blood sugar levels inhibit the release of linoleic acid (omega-6) from storage thereby contributing to a deficiency in essential fatty acids.
Sugar molecules are amazing. While two identical amino acids can combine to form only one biochemical message, two identical monosaccharides can form 11 distinct molecular messages. Four different amino acids can form only 24 unique molecules, but four different saccharides have the potential of forming 35,560 distinct molecules called tetrasaccharides. These compact sugar packages require significantly less mass in order to convey the identical information that is possible by proteins alone.
Saccharides (sugar molecules) determine the difference between blood types (The main blood types are O, A, B, and AB). They also enable cells to give and receive instructions, thereby eliminating any possibility of genetic chaos through the mixing of species or the wrong blood type.
A word ending in ose means it is a sugar. Watch for the positioning of any of these sugars. If it appears near the top of the list, the product has a high sugar content. If only one is listed or if it listed near the bottom, the product is considered low in sugar.
However, be aware that sugars may be listed separately; and when added together, they will constitute a significant portion of the product. Another thing to watch for is if a product is labeled sugarfree or sugarless. This does not necessarily mean the obvious. It generally means that the product contains NO SUCROSE, but still may contain other forms of sugar.
This page was updated in December 2005.