An Account Of Common Monosaccharides And Disaccharides

Carbohydrates are one of the essential macromolecules, required by human body as a source of energy. From energy transportation to being part of various structural features, they fulfill several important roles in an organism.

Another term for these compounds is saccharides. As such, these saccharides can be aldehydes (R-CHO) or ketones RC(=O)R’. The simplest sugars are three carbon molecules, glyceraldehyde and dihydroxyacetone.

Carbohydrates can be categorized in three groups, depending on the number and complexity of these molecules. These are mainly divides as monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.

Let’s briefly go through a few common mono- and disaccharides.

Monosaccharides – The simple sugars

carbohydrate synthesisThese consist of aldoses and ketoses with 3 to 6 carbon atoms. These are generally named as trioses (3C), tetroses (4C), pentoses (5C) and hexoses (6C). Monosaccharides also act as the base units for much longer and more complex carbohydrates.

Glucose, the most common and important sugar, is an aldohexose. This is the sugar we refer to when we talk about blood sugar. Through carbohydrate synthesis and breakdown, our bodies convert all other sugars to glucose, to later use it as the main source of energy.

Natural sources of glucose predominantly include rice, bread, sugar, and certain vegetables and fruits.

Fructose is yet another important monosaccharide, commonly called ‘fruit sugar’. It is so named because it is abundantly found in fruits and other plants. Most importantly, fructose is present in honey, vine fruits, berries, flowers and root vegetables.

Fructose is a six carbon ketose, with the same composition as glucose but a different configuration.

Galactose is also called ‘milk sugar’ as it is a major component of dairy products. It is also a six carbon aldose and a C4 epimer of glucose. Even with a similar configuration, galactose is much less sweeter in taste than glucose and fructose.

Other than dairy products, it is also found in sugar beets, gums and mucilages. Furthermore, it is used for various applications in the industry.

Disaccharides – Polymers of monosaccharides

Disaccharides are formed by two sugars joining together; the process is called condensation. Most common disaccharides include those formed by joining two of the three previously discussed monosaccharides.

Lactose (C12H22O11) is also a milk sugar, made from glucose and galactose molecules. This sugar makes up almost 2% to 8% of milk (by weight).

Maltose is formed by combination and dehydration of two glucose molecules. It is also called the ‘malt sugar’ and is often found in germinating seeds. It can also be obtained by caramelizing glucose.

Sucrose is the common sugar, or the table sugar that we use in our daily lives. It is formed by glucose and fructose.

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