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The Role of Carbohydrates

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The Role of Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are a very large group of molecules that can be synthesised by plants. They are molecules which contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Usually there is a ratio of 2:1 of hydrogen to oxygen atoms in a carbohydrate molecule. Carbohydrates are very common constituents of plants. They make up to around 90% of the dry mass of plants. Carbohydrates are also an essential part of the animal diet and they are usually obtained directly or indirectly from plants. The functions of carbohydrates vary greatly. There are many different carbohydrates with different sizes and structures, all of which perform a different task in plants or animals. Functions range from being an energy store to providing structural support and strength. There are three types of carbohydrates; they are the monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. This division is based on the fact that polysaccharides are non-sugars whereas monosaccharides are simple sugars and disaccharides are compound sugars. Each group has its own distinctive properties and for every carbohydrate that falls under one group, they share a general formula. Monosaccharides are simple sugars and contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in the ratio 1:2:1 so every monosaccharide has the general formula (CH2O)n, where n can be any number between 3 and 9. ...read more.


Lactose is also found as an intermediate stage of germination in plants. However, the glycosidic bond between glucose and galactose which makes up a lactose molecule is slightly different to the bond i.e. in maltose because there is ?-glycosidic bond in lactose and differs only in the angle of formation. This bond is unable to be digested by some people therefore many people are lactose intolerant and suffer from intestinal cramping and bloating due to the incomplete digestion of the carbohydrate. Although maltose is uncommon in nature, maltose is formed by the action of amylase on starch during digestion in animals and during the germination of seeds. Maltose is an interesting carbohydrate because of its use in fermentation in the process of alcohol production. Glucose, maltose and other sugars are converted to ethanol by yeast cells in the absence of oxygen. In the same way in animals through an analogous process, muscles convert glucose from maltose etc. into lactic acid to obtain energy while the body operates under anaerobic conditions. Sucrose is usually found in sugar cane and sugar beet and it is the form in which sugars are transported in plants through the phloem between different parts. ...read more.


As far as cellulose goes towards contributing to humans, it is used as an essential material for proper intestinal health because it passes through undigested so aiding the waste process and keeping the intestine clean. Another lesser function of carbohydrates is to link up with amino acids to form glycoprotein sequences. This is an important substance that plays a role in cellular recognition process such as with antibodies distinguishing between similar and foreign cells. The liver can also recognize differences in length and may internalise the protein in order to begin its own degradation. Carbohydrates' main function to act as an energy source is vital for the survival of life on earth but as well as doing that it performs so many other tasks that contribute to the composition of plants and animals as they are today. When reiterating the functions of carbohydrates in humans I found six major areas: providing energy and the regulation of blood glucose; sparing the use of proteins for energy; breakdown of fatty acids and prevention of ketosis; biological recognition processes; flavour and sweeteners and dietary fiber. In plants it acts as an energy source, store, a great structural material etc. Their composition is complex and their function essential. ?? ?? ?? ?? - 1 - Milan Shah - 12E ...read more.

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