UKPCS Science Chemistry: Carbohydrates #73

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A carbohydrate is a biological molecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water); in other words, with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n (where m could be different from n.)Carbohydrates

The term is most common in biochemistry, where it is a synonym of saccharide, a group that includes sugars, starch, and cellulose. The saccharides are divided into four chemical groups: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides.

Carbohydrates perform numerous roles in living organisms. Polysaccharides serve for the storage of energy (e.g. starch and glycogen) and as structural components (e.g. cellulose in plants and chitin in arthropods). The backbone of the genetic molecule known as RNA. The related deoxyribose is a component of DNA. Saccharides and their derivatives include many other important biomolecules that play key roles in the immune system, fertilization, preventing pathogenesis, blood clotting, and development.

Carbohydrates are found in wide variety of foods. The important sources are cereals (wheat, maize, rice), potatoes, sugarcane, fruits, table sugar(sucrose), bread, milk, etc. Starch and sugar are the important carbohydrates in our diet. Starch is abundant in potatoes, maize, rice and other cereals. Sugar appears in our diet mainly as sucrose(table sugar) which is added to drinks and many prepared foods such as jam, biscuits and cakes. Glucose and fructose are found naturally in many fruits and some vegetables. Glycogen is carbohydrate found in the liver and muscles (as animal source). Cellulose in the cell wall of all plant tissue is a carbohydrate. It is important in our diet as fibre which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.

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Hemant Bhatt
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