Carbohydrates Introduction and Carbohydrate Functions
General names for carbohydrates include sugars, starches, saccharides, and polysaccharides. The term saccharide is derived from the Latin word ” sacchararum” from the sweet taste of sugars.
The name “carbohydrate” means a “hydrate of carbon.” The name derives from the general formula of carbohydrate is Cx(H2O)y – x and y may or may not be equal and range in value from 3 to 12 or more. For example glucose is: C6(H2O)6 or is more commonly written, C6H12O6.
The chemistry of carbohydrates most closely resembles that of alcohol, aldehyde, and ketone functional groups. As a result, the modern definition of a CARBOHYDRATE is that the compounds are polyhydroxy aldehydes or ketones. The chemistry of carbohydrates is complicated by the fact that there is a functional group (alcohol) on almost every carbon. In addition, the carbohydrate may exist in either a straight chain or a ring structure. Ring structures incorporate two additional functional groups: the hemiacetal and acetal.
A major part of the carbon cycle occurs as carbon dioxide is converted to carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Carbohydrates are utilized by animals and humans in metabolism to produce energy and other compounds.
Carbohydrates are initially synthesized in plants from a complex series of reactions involving photosynthesis.
-Store energy in the form of starch (photosynthesis in plants) or glycogen (in animals and humans).
-Provide energy through metabolism pathways and cycles.
-Supply carbon for synthesis of other compounds.
-Form structural components in cells and tissues.
Photosynthesis is a complex series of reactions carried out by algae, phytoplankton, and the leaves in plants, which utilize the energy from the sun. The simplified version of this chemical reaction is to utilize carbon dioxide molecules from the air and water molecules and the energy from the sun to produce a simple sugar such as glucose and oxygen molecules as a by product. The simple sugars are then converted into other molecules such as starch, fats, proteins, enzymes, and DNA/RNA i.e. all of the other molecules in living plants. All of the “matter/stuff” of a plant ultimately is produced as a result of this photosynthesis reaction.
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