UKPCS Science Chemistry: Sucrose #28

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Sucrose is a common saccharide found in many plants and plant parts. The molecule is a disaccharide combination of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose with the formula C12H22O11.

Sucrose is often extracted and refined from either sugarcane or beet sugar for human consumption. Modern industrial sugar refinement processes often involve bleaching and crystallization, producing a white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste of pure sucrose. This refined form of sucrose is commonly referred to as table sugar or just sugar.

Most cane sugar comes from countries with warm climates, because sugarcane does not tolerate frost. Sugar beets, on the other hand, grow only in cooler temperate regions and do not tolerate extreme heat. About 80 percent of sucrose is derived from sugarcane, the rest almost all from sugar beets.

Countries: Brazil, India, European Union, China, Thailand, and United States were the major sugar-producing countries in the world.

Metabolism in animals: In humans and other mammals, sucrose is broken down into its constituent monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, by sucrose. Sucrose is an easily assimilated macronutrient that provides a quick source of energy, provoking a rapid rise in blood glucose upon ingestion.

Human health:

Tooth decay (dental caries) has become a prominent health hazard associated with the consumption of sugars, especially sucrose.

Diabetes mellitus, a disease that causes the body to metabolize sugar poorly, occurs when either:

  • the body attacks the cells producing insulin, the hormone that allows the metabolizing of sugar (Type 1 diabetes)
  • the body’s cells exhibit impaired responses to insulin (Type 2 diabetes).

When glucose builds up in the bloodstream, it can cause two problems:

  • in the short term, cells become starved for energy because they do not have access to the glucose
  • in the long term, frequent glucose build-up increases the acidity of the blood damaging many of the body’s organs including the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.

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