The Lowdown on Single Sugar Carbohydrates

Understanding the differences between sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose and maltose

Sugars, or carbohydrates, are imperative for life. Sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose and other types of sugars provide us energy; help to structure our DNA/RNA - and fulfil several other bodily functions and needs. All carbohydrates lose water and leave carbon behind when heated - hence the name "carbo" "hydrate".

But why all of these different names and what are the differences between these various types of carbohydrates?

The different types of carbohydrates (sugars):

Monosaccharides
Monosaccharides are known as simple sugars. This simply means that a carbohydrate that is labeled as a monosaccharide cannot be broken down further. Monosaccharides are carbohydrates that are already broken down as far as they can be.

Disaccharides
Disaccharides are simply sugars that are comprised of two monosaccharide units. Individual monosaccharide molecules are bound together by acetal bonds. These bound-together carbohydrates occur naturally throughout nature and form various components of our food. Additionally, they can join together with other monosaccharides and/or other disaccharides to form polysaccharides. "Poly" means "many". Therefore polysaccharides are carbohydrates comprised of several different less complex sugar molecules. The most common and important disaccharides are saccharose, maltose and lactose.

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