The eight essential sugars are part of a larger nutrient picture which we will refer to as Sugar-nutrients, since we are not allowed to use the coined term of G-nutrients (see Dictionary). They, in turn, are part of an even broader category known as “Nutraceuticals” a term that combines nutrition and pharmaceuticals.
The word “Nutraceuticals” was designed to include natural food-based substances with the pharmacological effects they have on the human body. First used by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, the term was drafted to incorporate all the natural, standardized, non-toxic dietary supplements used in conjunction with improved nutrition.
The following definitions may help explain some of the “Glyco” terminology:
- Glyco means “sweet” and, therefore, used when describing a sugar or carbohydrate molecule. “Sugar”, “Carbohydrate”, and “Saccharide” are all used interchangeably.
- Glycoforms or Glycoconjugates are large sugar molecules that combine with proteins and/or fats to cover the surfaces of all cells. These subclasses of glycoforms are then known as “glycoproteins” or “glycolipids”.
- Glycolipids are molecules made of sugars and fats. “Lipid” and “Fat” are often used interchangeably and associated with all membranes.
- Glyconutrients (see Dictionary)
- Glyconutritionals is a broader term identifying naturally occurring sugar-nutrients found in foods, extracts, derivates, complexes, or any other dietary source.
- Glycoproteins are molecules made of sugars and proteins. They are found coating the surface of every cell in the human body that contains a nucleus.
- Glycoscience or Glycobiology refers to an emerging science which seeks to understand the chemistry and physiology of all sugar-nutrients and their application to health and disease.
- Glycosylation is a metabolic process by which saccharides are chemically attached to the various substrates such as proteins or lipids. These may be surface molecules or specific enzymes, for example.
Sugar-nutrients have powerful effects on the immune system. When used along with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, sugar-nutrients appear to help lessen the side effects of these treatments while helping the body to recover and heal itself more quickly than if only the treatments were implemented.
The sugars found on all sugar-nutrients also address the workings of the brain and nervous system from memory and sleep to anxiety and depression. In addition, they have a role in helping the body handle cholesterol and fats by lowering triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) while, at the same time, raising the good cholesterol (HDL). Commercials have long touted the benefits of eating oatmeal to bring down cholesterol. What is not mentioned is that it is the sugars (beta-glucans) in oatmeal that are responsible.
Another important essential sugar function is to help retain bone density and muscle mass. The body undergoes wear and tear as it ages. Cells and tissues need to be replaced, remodeled, and renewed continually. Exercise helps the body to develop new blood vessels while increasing muscle mass. Certain kinds of tissues adapt to exercise by increasing the size and number of cells. Adaptation, healing, and recovery are all forms of tissue remodeling. Essential sugars play important roles in these processes.
(Updated June 2011)