A carbohydrate (/kɑːrboʊˈhaɪdreɪt/) is a biomolecule consisting of carbon (C), hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) atoms, usually with a hydrogen–oxygen atom ratio of 2:1 (as in water) and thus with the empirical formula Cm(H2O)n (where m may be different from n). This formula holds true for monosaccharides. Some exceptions exist; for example, deoxyribose, a sugar component of DNA,[1] has the empirical formula C5H10O4.[2] The carbohydrates are technically hydrates of carbon; structurally it is more accurate to view them as aldoses and ketoses.

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. Monosaccharides and disaccharides, the smallest (lower molecular weight) carbohydrates, are commonly referred to as sugars.[3] The word saccharide comes from the Greek word σάκχαρον (sákkharon), meaning "sugar".[4] While the scientific nomenclature of carbohydrates is complex, the names of the monosaccharides and disaccharides very often end in the suffix -ose, as in the monosaccharides fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (starch sugar) and the disaccharides sucrose (cane or beet sugar) and lactose (milk sugar).

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 5-carbon monosaccharide ribose is an important component of coenzymes (e.g. ATP, FAD and NAD) and 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.[5]

They are found in a wide variety of natural and processed foods. Starch is a polysaccharide. It is abundant in cereals (wheat, maize, rice), potatoes, and processed food based on cereal flour, such as bread, pizza or pasta. Sugars appear in human diet mainly as table sugar (sucrose, extracted from sugarcane or sugar beets), lactose (abundant in milk), glucose and fructose, both of which occur naturally in honey, many fruits, and some vegetables. Table sugar, milk, or honey are often added to drinks and many prepared foods such as jam, biscuits and cakes.

Cellulose, a polysaccharide found in the cell walls of all plants, is one of the main components of insoluble dietary fiber. Although it is not digestible, insoluble dietary fiber helps to maintain a healthy digestive system[6] by easing defecation. Other polysaccharides contained in dietary fiber include resistant starch and inulin, which feed some bacteria in the microbiota of the large intestine, and are metabolized by these bacteria to yield short-chain fatty acids.[7][8]

Lactose is a disaccharide found in animal milk. It consists of a molecule of D-galactose and a molecule of D-glucose bonded by beta-1-4 glycosidic linkage.


In scientific literature, the term "carbohydrate" has many synonyms, like "sugar" (in the broad sense), "saccharide", "ose",[4] "glucide",[9] "hydrate of carbon" or "polyhydroxy compounds with aldehyde or ketone". Some of these terms, specially "carbohydrate" and "sugar", are also used with other meanings.

In food science and in many informal contexts, the term "carbohydrate" often means any food that is particularly rich in the complex carbohydrate starch (such as cereals, bread and pasta) or simple carbohydrates, such as sugar (found in candy, jams, and desserts).

Often in lists of nutritional information, such as the USDA National Nutrient Database, the term "carbohydrate" (or "carbohydrate by difference") is used for everything other than water, protein, fat, ash, and ethanol.[10] This includes chemical compounds such as acetic or lactic acid, which are not normally considered carbohydrates. It also includes dietary fiber which is a carbohydrate but which does not contribute much in the way of food energy (kilocalories), even though it is often included in the calculation of total food energy just as though it were a sugar.

In the strict sense, "sugar" is applied for sweet, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food.


Formerly the name "carbohydrate" was used in chemistry for any compound with the formula Cm (H2O)n. Following this definition, some chemists considered formaldehyde (CH2O) to be the simplest carbohydrate,[11] while others claimed that title for glycolaldehyde.[12] Today, the term is generally understood in the biochemistry sense, which excludes compounds with only one or two carbons and includes many biological carbohydrates which deviate from this formula. For example, while the above representative formulas would seem to capture the commonly known carbohydrates, ubiquitous and abundant carbohydrates often deviate from this. For example, carbohydrates often display chemical groups such as: N-acetyl (e.g. chitin), sulphate (e.g. glycosaminoglycans), carboxylic acid (e.g. sialic acid) and deoxy modifications (e.g. fucose and sialic acid).

Natural saccharides are generally built of simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides with general formula (CH2O)n where n is three or more. A typical monosaccharide has the structure H–(CHOH)x(C=O)–(CHOH)y–H, that is, an aldehyde or ketone with many hydroxyl groups added, usually one on each carbon atom that is not part of the aldehyde or ketone functional group. Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and glyceraldehydes. However, some biological substances commonly called "monosaccharides" do not conform to this formula (e.g. uronic acids and deoxy-sugars such as fucose) and there are many chemicals that do conform to this formula but are not considered to be monosaccharides (e.g. formaldehyde CH2O and inositol (CH2O)6).[13]

The open-chain form of a monosaccharide often coexists with a closed ring form where the aldehyde/ketone carbonyl group carbon (C=O) and hydroxyl group (–OH) react forming a hemiacetal with a new C–O–C bridge.

Monosaccharides can be linked together into what are called polysaccharides (or oligosaccharides) in a large variety of ways. Many carbohydrates contain one or more modified monosaccharide units that have had one or more groups replaced or removed. For example, deoxyribose, a component of DNA, is a modified version of ribose; chitin is composed of repeating units of N-acetyl glucosamine, a nitrogen-containing form of glucose.


Carbohydrates are polyhydroxy aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, acids, their simple derivatives and their polymers having linkages of the acetal type. They may be classified according to their degree of polymerization, and may be divided initially into three principal groups, namely sugars, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides[14]

The major dietary carbohydrates
Class (DP*) Subgroup Components
Sugars (1–2) Monosaccharides Glucose, galactose, fructose, xylose
Disaccharides Sucrose, lactose, maltose, trehalose
Polyols Sorbitol, mannitol
Oligosaccharides (3–9) Malto-oligosaccharides Maltodextrins
Other oligosaccharides Raffinose, stachyose, fructo-oligosaccharides
Polysaccharides (>9) Starch Amylose, amylopectin, modified starches
Non-starch polysaccharides Glycogen, Cellulose, Hemicellulose, Pectins, Hydrocolloids

DP * = Degree of polymerization


D-glucose color coded
D-glucose is an aldohexose with the formula (C·H2O)6. The red atoms highlight the aldehyde group and the blue atoms highlight the asymmetric center furthest from the aldehyde; because this -OH is on the right of the Fischer projection, this is a D sugar.

Monosaccharides are the simplest carbohydrates in that they cannot be hydrolyzed to smaller carbohydrates. They are aldehydes or ketones with two or more hydroxyl groups. The general chemical formula of an unmodified monosaccharide is (C•H2O)n, literally a "carbon hydrate". Monosaccharides are important fuel molecules as well as building blocks for nucleic acids. The smallest monosaccharides, for which n=3, are dihydroxyacetone and D- and L-glyceraldehydes.

Classification of monosaccharides


The α and β anomers of glucose. Note the position of the hydroxyl group (red or green) on the anomeric carbon relative to the CH2OH group bound to carbon 5: they either have identical absolute configurations (R,R or S,S) (α), or opposite absolute configurations (R,S or S,R) (β).[15]



Monosaccharides are classified according to three different characteristics: the placement of its carbonyl group, the number of carbon atoms it contains, and its chiral handedness. If the carbonyl group is an aldehyde, the monosaccharide is an aldose; if the carbonyl group is a ketone, the monosaccharide is a ketose. Monosaccharides with three carbon atoms are called trioses, those with four are called tetroses, five are called pentoses, six are hexoses, and so on.[16] These two systems of classification are often combined. For example, glucose is an aldohexose (a six-carbon aldehyde), ribose is an aldopentose (a five-carbon aldehyde), and fructose is a ketohexose (a six-carbon ketone).

Each carbon atom bearing a hydroxyl group (-OH), with the exception of the first and last carbons, are asymmetric, making them stereo centers with two possible configurations each (R or S). Because of this asymmetry, a number of isomers may exist for any given monosaccharide formula. Using Le Bel-van't Hoff rule, the aldohexose D-glucose, for example, has the formula (C·H2O)6, of which four of its six carbons atoms are stereogenic, making D-glucose one of 24=16 possible stereoisomers. In the case of glyceraldehydes, an aldotriose, there is one pair of possible stereoisomers, which are enantiomers and epimers. 1, 3-dihydroxyacetone, the ketose corresponding to the aldose glyceraldehydes, is a symmetric molecule with no stereo centers. The assignment of D or L is made according to the orientation of the asymmetric carbon furthest from the carbonyl group: in a standard Fischer projection if the hydroxyl group is on the right the molecule is a D sugar, otherwise it is an L sugar. The "D-" and "L-" prefixes should not be confused with "d-" or "l-", which indicate the direction that the sugar rotates plane polarized light. This usage of "d-" and "l-" is no longer followed in carbohydrate chemistry.[17]

Ring-straight chain isomerism

Glucose Fisher to Haworth
Glucose can exist in both a straight-chain and ring form.

The aldehyde or ketone group of a straight-chain monosaccharide will react reversibly with a hydroxyl group on a different carbon atom to form a hemiacetal or hemiketal, forming a heterocyclic ring with an oxygen bridge between two carbon atoms. Rings with five and six atoms are called furanose and pyranose forms, respectively, and exist in equilibrium with the straight-chain form.[18]

During the conversion from straight-chain form to the cyclic form, the carbon atom containing the carbonyl oxygen, called the anomeric carbon, becomes a stereogenic center with two possible configurations: The oxygen atom may take a position either above or below the plane of the ring. The resulting possible pair of stereoisomers is called anomers. In the α anomer, the -OH substituent on the anomeric carbon rests on the opposite side (trans) of the ring from the CH2OH side branch. The alternative form, in which the CH2OH substituent and the anomeric hydroxyl are on the same side (cis) of the plane of the ring, is called the β anomer.

Use in living organisms

Monosaccharides are the major source of fuel for metabolism, being used both as an energy source (glucose being the most important in nature) and in biosynthesis. When monosaccharides are not immediately needed by many cells they are often converted to more space-efficient forms, often polysaccharides. In many animals, including humans, this storage form is glycogen, especially in liver and muscle cells. In plants, starch is used for the same purpose. The most abundant carbohydrate, cellulose, is a structural component of the cell wall of plants and many forms of algae. Ribose is a component of RNA. Deoxyribose is a component of DNA. Lyxose is a component of lyxoflavin found in the human heart.[19] Ribulose and xylulose occur in the pentose phosphate pathway. Galactose, a component of milk sugar lactose, is found in galactolipids in plant cell membranes and in glycoproteins in many tissues. Mannose occurs in human metabolism, especially in the glycosylation of certain proteins. Fructose, or fruit sugar, is found in many plants and in humans, it is metabolized in the liver, absorbed directly into the intestines during digestion, and found in semen. Trehalose, a major sugar of insects, is rapidly hydrolyzed into two glucose molecules to support continuous flight.


Sucrose 3Dprojection
Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is a common disaccharide. It is composed of two monosaccharides: D-glucose (left) and D-fructose (right).

Two joined monosaccharides are called a disaccharide and these are the simplest polysaccharides. Examples include sucrose and lactose. They are composed of two monosaccharide units bound together by a covalent bond known as a glycosidic linkage formed via a dehydration reaction, resulting in the loss of a hydrogen atom from one monosaccharide and a hydroxyl group from the other. The formula of unmodified disaccharides is C12H22O11. Although there are numerous kinds of disaccharides, a handful of disaccharides are particularly notable.

Sucrose, pictured to the right, is the most abundant disaccharide, and the main form in which carbohydrates are transported in plants. It is composed of one D-glucose molecule and one D-fructose molecule. The systematic name for sucrose, O-α-D-glucopyranosyl-(1→2)-D-fructofuranoside, indicates four things:

  • Its monosaccharides: glucose and fructose
  • Their ring types: glucose is a pyranose and fructose is a furanose
  • How they are linked together: the oxygen on carbon number 1 (C1) of α-D-glucose is linked to the C2 of D-fructose.
  • The -oside suffix indicates that the anomeric carbon of both monosaccharides participates in the glycosidic bond.

Lactose, a disaccharide composed of one D-galactose molecule and one D-glucose molecule, occurs naturally in mammalian milk. The systematic name for lactose is O-β-D-galactopyranosyl-(1→4)-D-glucopyranose. Other notable disaccharides include maltose (two D-glucoses linked α-1,4) and cellulobiose (two D-glucoses linked β-1,4). Disaccharides can be classified into two types: reducing and non-reducing disaccharides. If the functional group is present in bonding with another sugar unit, it is called a reducing disaccharide or biose.


Wheat products
Grain products: rich sources of carbohydrates

Carbohydrate consumed in food yields 3.87 kilocalories of energy per gram for simple sugars,[20] and 3.57 to 4.12 kilocalories per gram for complex carbohydrate in most other foods.[21] Relatively high levels of carbohydrate are associated with processed foods or refined foods made from plants, including sweets, cookies and candy, table sugar, honey, soft drinks, breads and crackers, jams and fruit products, pastas and breakfast cereals. Lower amounts of carbohydrate are usually associated with unrefined foods, including beans, tubers, rice, and unrefined fruit.[22] Animal-based foods generally have the lowest carbohydrate levels, although milk does contain a high proportion of lactose.

Organisms typically cannot metabolize all types of carbohydrate to yield energy. Glucose is a nearly universal and accessible source of energy. Many organisms also have the ability to metabolize other monosaccharides and disaccharides but glucose is often metabolized first. In Escherichia coli, for example, the lac operon will express enzymes for the digestion of lactose when it is present, but if both lactose and glucose are present the lac operon is repressed, resulting in the glucose being used first (see: Diauxie). Polysaccharides are also common sources of energy. Many organisms can easily break down starches into glucose; most organisms, however, cannot metabolize cellulose or other polysaccharides like chitin and arabinoxylans. These carbohydrate types can be metabolized by some bacteria and protists. Ruminants and termites, for example, use microorganisms to process cellulose. Even though these complex carbohydrates are not very digestible, they represent an important dietary element for humans, called dietary fiber. Fiber enhances digestion, among other benefits.[23]

Based on the effects on risk of heart disease and obesity in otherwise healthy middle-aged adults,[24] the Institute of Medicine recommends that American and Canadian adults get between 45–65% of dietary energy from whole-grain carbohydrates.[25] The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization jointly recommend that national dietary guidelines set a goal of 55–75% of total energy from carbohydrates, but only 10% directly from sugars (their term for simple carbohydrates).[26] A 2017 Cochrane Systematic Review concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that whole grain diets can affect cardiovascular disease.[27]


Nutritionists often refer to carbohydrates as either simple or complex. However, the exact distinction between these groups can be ambiguous. The term complex carbohydrate was first used in the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs publication Dietary Goals for the United States (1977) where it was intended to distinguish sugars from other carbohydrates (which were perceived to be nutritionally superior).[28] However, the report put "fruit, vegetables and whole-grains" in the complex carbohydrate column, despite the fact that these may contain sugars as well as polysaccharides. This confusion persists as today some nutritionists use the term complex carbohydrate to refer to any sort of digestible saccharide present in a whole food, where fiber, vitamins and minerals are also found (as opposed to processed carbohydrates, which provide energy but few other nutrients). The standard usage, however, is to classify carbohydrates chemically: simple if they are sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides) and complex if they are polysaccharides (or oligosaccharides).[29]

In any case, the simple vs. complex chemical distinction has little value for determining the nutritional quality of carbohydrates.[29] Some simple carbohydrates (e.g. fructose) raise blood glucose slowly, while some complex carbohydrates (starches), especially if processed, raise blood sugar rapidly. The speed of digestion is determined by a variety of factors including which other nutrients are consumed with the carbohydrate, how the food is prepared, individual differences in metabolism, and the chemistry of the carbohydrate.[30]

The USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 call for moderate- to high-carbohydrate consumption from a balanced diet that includes six one-ounce servings of grain foods each day, at least half from whole grain sources and the rest from enriched.[31]

The glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load concepts have been developed to characterize food behavior during human digestion. They rank carbohydrate-rich foods based on the rapidity and magnitude of their effect on blood glucose levels. Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly food glucose is absorbed, while glycemic load is a measure of the total absorbable glucose in foods. The insulin index is a similar, more recent classification method that ranks foods based on their effects on blood insulin levels, which are caused by glucose (or starch) and some amino acids in food.

Effects of dietary carbohydrate restriction

Carbohydrates are a common source of energy in living organisms; however, no single carbohydrate is an essential nutrient in humans.[32] Humans are able to obtain all of their energy requirement from protein and fats, though the potential for some negative health effects of extreme carbohydrate restriction remains, as the issue has not been studied extensively yet.[32] However, in the case of dietary fiber – indigestible carbohydrates which are not a source of energy – inadequate intake can lead to significant increases in mortality.[33][34]

Following a diet consisting of very low amounts of daily carbohydrate for several days will usually result in higher levels of blood ketone bodies than an isocaloric diet with similar protein content. This relatively high level of ketone bodies is commonly known as ketosis and is very often confused with the potentially fatal condition often seen in type 1 diabetics known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Somebody suffering ketoacidosis will have much higher levels of blood ketone bodies along with high blood sugar, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Long-chain fatty acids cannot cross the blood–brain barrier, but the liver can break these down to produce ketones. However, the medium-chain fatty acids octanoic and heptanoic acids can cross the barrier and be used by the brain, which normally relies upon glucose for its energy.[35][36][37] Gluconeogenesis allows humans to synthesize some glucose from specific amino acids: from the glycerol backbone in triglycerides and in some cases from fatty acids.


Carbohydrate metabolism denotes the various biochemical processes responsible for the formation, breakdown and interconversion of carbohydrates in living organisms.

The most important carbohydrate is glucose, a simple sugar (monosaccharide) that is metabolized by nearly all known organisms. Glucose and other carbohydrates are part of a wide variety of metabolic pathways across species: plants synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water by photosynthesis storing the absorbed energy internally, often in the form of starch or lipids. Plant components are consumed by animals and fungi, and used as fuel for cellular respiration. Oxidation of one gram of carbohydrate yields approximately 16 kJ (4 kcal) of energy, while the oxidation of one gram of lipids yields about 38 kJ (9 kcal). The human body stores between 300 to 500 g of carbohydrates depending on body weight, with the skeletal muscle contributing to a large portion of the storage.[38] Energy obtained from metabolism (e.g., oxidation of glucose) is usually stored temporarily within cells in the form of ATP.[39] Organisms capable of anaerobic and aerobic respiration metabolize glucose and oxygen (aerobic) to release energy, with carbon dioxide and water as byproducts.


Catabolism is the metabolic reaction which cells undergo to break down larger molecules, extracting energy. There are two major metabolic pathways of monosaccharide catabolism: glycolysis and the citric acid cycle.

In glycolysis, oligo- and polysaccharides are cleaved first to smaller monosaccharides by enzymes called glycoside hydrolases. The monosaccharide units can then enter into monosaccharide catabolism. A 2 ATP investment is required in the early steps of glycolysis to phosphorylate Glucose to Glucose 6-Phosphate (G6P) and Fructose 6-Phosphate (F6P) to Fructose 1,6-biphosphate (FBP), thereby pushing the reaction forward irreversibly.[40] In some cases, as with humans, not all carbohydrate types are usable as the digestive and metabolic enzymes necessary are not present.

Carbohydrate chemistry

Carbohydrate chemistry is a large and economically important branch of organic chemistry. Some of the main organic reactions that involve carbohydrates are:

See also


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External links


An aglycone (aglycon or genin) is the compound remaining after the glycosyl group on a glycoside is replaced by a hydrogen atom.For example, the aglycone of a cardiac glycoside would be a steroid molecule.

Atkins diet

The Atkins diet is a weight-loss program devised by Robert Atkins. The Atkins diet is classified as a low-carbohydrate fad diet. The diet is marketed with questionable claims that carbohydrate restriction is critical to weight loss. There is no good evidence of the diet's effectiveness in achieving durable weight loss and it may increase the risk of heart disease.

Carbohydrate dehydrogenase

Carbohydrate dehydrogenases are a group of dehydrogenase enzymes that occur in many organisms and facilitate the conversion from a carbohydrate to an aldehyde, lactone, or ketose.

Carbohydrate dehydrogenases are the most common quinoprotein oxidoreductases, which are enzymes that oxidize a wide range of molecules.

An example includes L-gulonolactone oxidase.

They are categorized under EC number 1.1. More specifically, they are in three subcodes: 1, 2, and 99, categorized as follows:

EC 1.1.1 With NAD or NADP as acceptor

EC 1.1.2 With a cytochrome as acceptor

EC 1.1.99 With other acceptors

Carbohydrate metabolism

Various biochemical processes responsible for the metabolic formation, breakdown, and interconversion of carbohydrates in living organisms.

Carbohydrates are central to many essential metabolic pathways. Plants synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water through photosynthesis, allowing them to store energy absorbed from sunlight internally. When animals and fungi consume plants, they use cellular respiration to break down these stored carbohydrates to make energy available to cells. Both animals and plants temporarily store the released energy in the form of high energy molecules, such as ATP, for use in various cellular processes.Although humans consume a variety of carbohydrates, digestion breaks down complex carbohydrates into a few simple monomers (monosaccharides) for metabolism: glucose, fructose, and galactose. Glucose constitutes about 80% of the products, and is the primary structure that is distributed to cells in the tissues, where it is broken down or stored as glycogen. In aerobic respiration, the main form of cellular respiration used by humans, glucose and oxygen are metabolized to release energy, with carbon dioxide and water as byproducts. Most of the fructose and galactose travel to the liver, where they can be converted to glucose.Some simple carbohydrates have their own enzymatic oxidation pathways, as do only a few of the more complex carbohydrates. The disaccharide lactose, for instance, requires the enzyme lactase to be broken into its monosaccharide components, glucose and galactose.


Dieting is the practice of eating food in a regulated and supervised fashion to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight, or to prevent and treat diseases, such as diabetes. A restricted diet is often used by those who are overweight or obese, sometimes in combination with physical exercise, to reduce body weight. Some people follow a diet to gain weight (usually in the form of muscle). Diets can also be used to maintain a stable body weight and improve health.

Diets to promote weight loss can be categorized as: low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, very low calorie and more recently flexible dieting. A meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials found no difference between low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and low-fat diets, with a 2–4 kilogram weight loss over 12–18 months in all studies. At two years, all calorie-reduced diet types cause equal weight loss irrespective of the macronutrients emphasized. In general, the most effective diet is any which reduces calorie consumption.A study published in American Psychologist found that short-term dieting involving "severe restriction of calorie intake" does not lead to "sustained improvements in weight and health for the majority of individuals". Other studies have found that the average individual maintains some weight loss after dieting. Weight loss by dieting, while of benefit to those classified as unhealthy, may slightly increase the mortality rate for individuals who are otherwise healthy.The first popular diet was "Banting", named after William Banting. In his 1863 pamphlet, Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public, he outlined the details of a particular low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet that had led to his own dramatic weight loss.


Gluconeogenesis (GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates. From breakdown of proteins, these substrates include glucogenic amino acids (although not ketogenic amino acids); from breakdown of lipids (such as triglycerides), they include glycerol, odd-chain fatty acids (although not even-chain fatty acids, see below); and from other steps in metabolism they include pyruvate and lactate.

Gluconeogenesis is one of several main mechanisms used by humans and many other animals to maintain blood glucose levels, avoiding low levels (hypoglycemia). Other means include the degradation of glycogen (glycogenolysis) and fatty acid catabolism.

Gluconeogenesis is a ubiquitous process, present in plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms. In vertebrates, gluconeogenesis takes place mainly in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the cortex of the kidneys. In ruminants, this tends to be a continuous process. In many other animals, the process occurs during periods of fasting, starvation, low-carbohydrate diets, or intense exercise. The process is highly endergonic until it is coupled to the hydrolysis of ATP or GTP, effectively making the process exergonic. For example, the pathway leading from pyruvate to glucose-6-phosphate requires 4 molecules of ATP and 2 molecules of GTP to proceed spontaneously. Gluconeogenesis is often associated with ketosis. Gluconeogenesis is also a target of therapy for type 2 diabetes, such as the antidiabetic drug, metformin, which inhibits glucose formation and stimulates glucose uptake by cells. In ruminants, because dietary carbohydrates tend to be metabolized by rumen organisms, gluconeogenesis occurs regardless of fasting, low-carbohydrate diets, exercise, etc.

Glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) (;) is a number from 0 to 100 assigned to a food, with pure glucose arbitrarily given the value of 100, which represents the relative rise in the blood glucose level two hours after consuming that food. The GI of a specific food depends primarily on the quantity and type of carbohydrate it contains; but also is affected by the type of carbohydrate, the amount of entrapment of the carbohydrate molecules within the food, the fat and protein content of the food, the amount of organic acids (or their salts) in the food, and whether it is cooked and if so how it is cooked. GI tables are available that list many types of foods with their GIs. A food is considered to have a low GI if it is 55 or less; high GI if 70 or more; and mid-range GI if 56 to 69.

The GI is useful for quantifying the relative rapidity with which the body breaks down carbohydrates. It takes into account only the available carbohydrate (total carbohydrate minus fiber) in a food. Glycemic index does not predict an individual's glycemic response to a food, but can be used as a tool to assess the insulin response burden of a food, averaged across a studied population. Individual responses vary greatly.The glycemic index is usually applied in the context of the quantity of the food and the amount of carbohydrate in the food that is actually consumed. A related measure, the glycemic load (GL), factors this in by multiplying the glycemic index of the food in question by the carbohydrate content of the actual serving.

A practical limitation of the glycemic index is that it does not measure insulin production due to rises in blood sugar. As a result, two foods could have the same glycemic index, but produce different amounts of insulin. Likewise, two foods could have the same glycemic load, but cause different insulin responses. Furthermore, both the glycemic index and glycemic load measurements are defined by the carbohydrate content of food. For example, when eating steak, which has no carbohydrate content but provides a high protein intake, up to 50% of that protein can be converted to glucose when there is little to no carbohydrate consumed with it. But because it contains no carbohydrate itself, steak cannot have a glycemic index. For some food comparisons, the "insulin index" may be more useful.


Glycolipids are lipids with a carbohydrate attached by a glycosidic (covalent) bond. Their role is to maintain the stability of the cell membrane and to facilitate cellular recognition, which is crucial to the immune response and in the connections that allow cells to connect to one another to form tissues. Glycolipids are found on the surface of all eukaryotic cell membranes, where they extend from the phospholipid bilayer into the extracellular environment.


Glycoproteins are proteins which contain oligosaccharide chains (glycans) covalently attached to amino acid side-chains. The carbohydrate is attached to the protein in a cotranslational or posttranslational modification. This process is known as glycosylation. Secreted extracellular proteins are often glycosylated.

In proteins that have segments extending extracellularly, the extracellular segments are also often glycosylated. Glycoproteins are also often important integral membrane proteins, where they play a role in cell–cell interactions. It is important to distinguish endoplasmic reticulum-based glycosylation of the secretory system from reversible cytosolic-nuclear glycosylation. Glycoproteins of the cytosol and nucleus can be modified through the reversible addition of a single GlcNAc residue that is considered reciprocal to phosphorylation and the functions of these are likely to be additional regulatory mechanism that controls phosphorylation-based signalling. In contrast, classical secretory glycosylation can be structurally essential. For example, inhibition of asparagine-linked, i.e. N-linked, glycosylation can prevent proper glycoprotein folding and full inhibition can be toxic to an individual cell. In contrast, perturbation of glycan processing (enzymatic removal/addition of carbohydrate residues to the glycan), which occurs in both the endoplastic reticulum and Golgi apparatus, is dispensable for isolated cells (as evidence by survival with glycosides inhibitors) but can lead to human disease (congenital disorders of glycosylation) and can be lethal in animal models. It is therefore likely that the fine processing of glycans is important for endogenous functionality, such as cell trafficking, but that this is likely to have been secondary to its role in host-pathogen interactions. A famous example of this latter effect is the ABO blood group system.

Glycosidic bond

In chemistry, a glycosidic bond or glycosidic linkage is a type of covalent bond that joins a carbohydrate (sugar) molecule to another group, which may or may not be another carbohydrate.

A glycosidic bond is formed between the hemiacetal or hemiketal group of a saccharide (or a molecule derived from a saccharide) and the hydroxyl group of some compound such as an alcohol. A substance containing a glycosidic bond is a glycoside.

The term 'glycoside' is now extended to also cover compounds with bonds formed between hemiacetal (or hemiketal) groups of sugars and several chemical groups other than hydroxyls, such as -SR (thioglycosides), -SeR (selenoglycosides), -NR1R2 (N-glycosides), or even -CR1R2R3 (C-glycosides).

Particularly in naturally occurring glycosides, the compound ROH from which the carbohydrate residue has been removed is often termed the aglycone, and the carbohydrate residue itself is sometimes referred to as the 'glycone'.


Glycosylation (see also chemical glycosylation) is the reaction in which a carbohydrate, i.e. a glycosyl donor, is attached to a hydroxyl or other functional group of another molecule (a glycosyl acceptor). In biology, glycosylation mainly refers in particular to the enzymatic process that attaches glycans to proteins, or other organic molecules. This enzymatic process produces one of the fundamental biopolymers found in cells (along with DNA, RNA, and proteins). Glycosylation is a form of co-translational and post-translational modification. Glycans serve a variety of structural and functional roles in membrane and secreted proteins. The majority of proteins synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum undergo glycosylation. It is an enzyme-directed site-specific process, as opposed to the non-enzymatic chemical reaction of glycation. Glycosylation is also present in the cytoplasm and nucleus as the O-GlcNAc modification. Aglycosylation is a feature of engineered antibodies to bypass glycosylation. Five classes of glycans are produced:

N-linked glycans attached to a nitrogen of asparagine or arginine side-chains. N-linked glycosylation requires participation of a special lipid called dolichol phosphate.

O-linked glycans attached to the hydroxyl oxygen of serine, threonine, tyrosine, hydroxylysine, or hydroxyproline side-chains, or to oxygens on lipids such as ceramide

phosphoglycans linked through the phosphate of a phosphoserine;

C-linked glycans, a rare form of glycosylation where a sugar is added to a carbon on a tryptophan side-chain

glypiation, which is the addition of a GPI anchor that links proteins to lipids through glycan linkages.


Glycosyltransferases (GTFs, Gtfs) are enzymes (EC 2.4) that establish natural glycosidic linkages. They catalyze the transfer of saccharide moieties from an activated nucleotide sugar (also known as the "glycosyl donor") to a nucleophilic glycosyl acceptor molecule, the nucleophile of which can be oxygen- carbon-, nitrogen-, or sulfur-based.The result of glycosyl transfer can be a carbohydrate, glycoside, oligosaccharide, or a polysaccharide. Some glycosyltransferases catalyse transfer to inorganic phosphate or water. Glycosyl transfer can also occur to protein residues, usually to tyrosine, serine, or threonine to give O-linked glycoproteins, or to asparagine to give N-linked glycoproteins. Mannosyl groups may be transferred to tryptophan to generate C-mannosyl tryptophan, which is relatively abundant in eukaryotes. Transferases may also use lipids as an acceptor, forming glycolipids, and even use lipid-linked sugar phosphate donors, such as dolichol phosphates.

Glycosyltransferases that use sugar nucleotide donors are Leloir enzymes, after Luis F. Leloir, the scientist who discovered the first sugar nucleotide and who received the 1970 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on carbohydrate metabolism. Glycosyltransferases that use non-nucleotide donors such as dolichol or polyprenol pyrophosphate are non-Leloir glycosyltransferases.

Mammals use only 9 sugar nucleotide donors for glycosyltransferases: UDP-glucose, UDP-galactose, UDP-GlcNAc, UDP-GalNAc, UDP-xylose, UDP-glucuronic acid, GDP-mannose, GDP-fucose, and CMP-sialic acid. The phosphate(s) of these donor molecules are usually coordinated by divalent cations such as manganese, however metal independent enzymes exist.

Many glycosyltransferases are single-pass transmembrane proteins, and they are usually anchored to membranes of Golgi apparatus

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used primarily to treat difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain function. However, if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood, a state known as ketosis, leads to a reduction in the frequency of epileptic seizures. Around half of children and young people with epilepsy who have tried some form of this diet saw the number of seizures drop by at least half, and the effect persists even after discontinuing the diet. Some evidence indicates that adults with epilepsy may benefit from the diet, and that a less strict regimen, such as a modified Atkins diet, is similarly effective. Potential side effects may include constipation, high cholesterol, growth slowing, acidosis, and kidney stones.The original therapeutic diet for paediatric epilepsy provides just enough protein for body growth and repair, and sufficient calories to maintain the correct weight for age and height. The classic therapeutic ketogenic diet was developed for treatment of paediatric epilepsy in the 1920s and was widely used into the next decade, but its popularity waned with the introduction of effective anticonvulsant medications. This classic ketogenic diet contains a 4:1 ratio by weight of fat to combined protein and carbohydrate. This is achieved by excluding high-carbohydrate foods such as starchy fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, and sugar, while increasing the consumption of foods high in fat such as nuts, cream, and butter. Most dietary fat is made of molecules called long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). However, medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)—made from fatty acids with shorter carbon chains than LCTs—are more ketogenic. A variant of the classic diet known as the MCT ketogenic diet uses a form of coconut oil, which is rich in MCTs, to provide around half the calories. As less overall fat is needed in this variant of the diet, a greater proportion of carbohydrate and protein can be consumed, allowing a greater variety of food choices.In the mid-1990s, Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams, whose son's severe epilepsy was effectively controlled by the diet, created the Charlie Foundation to promote it. Publicity included an appearance on NBC's Dateline programme and ...First Do No Harm (1997), a made-for-television film starring Meryl Streep. The foundation sponsored a multicentre research study, the results of which—announced in 1996—marked the beginning of renewed scientific interest in the diet.Possible therapeutic uses for the ketogenic diet have been studied for various neurological disorders in addition to epilepsy: Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, brain cancer, headache, neurotrauma, pain, Parkinson's disease, and sleep disorders.


Lectins (from Latin lect- ‘chosen’ (from the verb legere ) + -ins) are carbohydrate-binding proteins, macromolecules that are highly specific for sugar moieties of other molecules. They are also known as phytohemagglutinins. Lectins perform recognition on the cellular and molecular level and play numerous roles in biological recognition phenomena involving cells, carbohydrates, and proteins. Lectins also mediate attachment and binding of bacteria and viruses to their intended targets.

Lectins are ubiquitous in nature and are found in many foods. Some foods such as beans and grains need to be cooked or fermented to reduce lectin content. Some lectins are beneficial, such as CLEC11A which promotes bone growth, while others may be powerful toxins such as ricin.Lectins may be disabled by specific mono- and oligosaccharides, which bind to ingested lectins from grains, legume, nightshade plants and dairy; binding can prevent their attachment to the carbohydrates within the cell membrane. The selectivity of lectins means that they are very useful for analyzing blood type, and they are also used in some genetically engineered crops to transfer traits, such as resistance to pests and resistance to herbicides.

Low-carbohydrate diet

Low-carbohydrate diets or carbohydrate-restricted diets (CRDs) are diets that restrict carbohydrate consumption. Foods high in carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, bread, pasta) are limited or replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of fats and moderate protein (e.g., meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds) and other foods low in carbohydrates (e.g., most salad vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard and collards), although other vegetables and fruits (especially berries) are often allowed.

There is a lack of standardization of how much carbohydrate low-carbohydrate diets must have, and this has complicated research. One definition, from the American Academy of Family Physicians, specifies low-carbohydrate diets as having less than 20% carbohydrate content.Low-carbohydrate diets are associated with increased mortality, and they can miss out on the health benefits afforded by high-quality carbohydrate such as is found in legumes including grain legumes or pulses, and fruit and vegetables. Disadvantages of the diet might include halitosis, headache and constipation, and in general the potential adverse effects of the diet are under-researched, particularly for more serious possible risks such as for bone health and cancer incidence.Carbohydrate-restricted diets can be as effective, or marginally more effective, than low-fat diets in helping achieve weight loss in the short term. In the long term, effective weight maintenance depends on calorie restriction, not the ratio of macronutrients in a diet. The hypothesis proposed by diet advocates that carbohydrate causes undue fat accumulation via the medium of insulin, and that low-carbohydrate diets have a "metabolic advantage", has been falsified by experiment.It is not clear how low-carbohydrate dieting affects cardiovascular health; any benefit from HDL cholesterol might be offset by raised LDL cholesterol, which risks causing clogged arteries in the long term.Carbohydrate-restricted diets are no more effective than a conventional healthy diet in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, but for people with type 2 diabetes they are a viable option for losing weight or helping with glycemic control. There is little evidence that low-carbohydrate dieting is helpful in managing type 1 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes should adopt a generally healthy diet, rather than a diet focused on carbohydrate or other macronutrients.An extreme form of low-carbohydrate diet – the ketogenic diet – is established as a medical diet for treating epilepsy. Through celebrity endorsement it has become a popular weight-loss fad diet, but there is no evidence of any distinctive benefit for this purpose, and it risks causing a number of side effects. The British Dietetic Association named it one of the "top 5 worst celeb diets to avoid in 2018".

Low-fat diet

A low-fat diet is one that restricts fat and often saturated fat and cholesterol as well. Low-fat diets are intended to reduce the occurrence of conditions such as heart disease and obesity. For weight loss, they perform similarly to a low-carbohydrate diet, since macronutrient composition does not determine weight loss success. Reducing fat in the diet can make it easier to cut calories. Fat provides nine calories per gram while carbohydrates and protein each provide four calories per gram, so choosing low-fat foods makes it possible to eat a larger volume of food for the same number of calories. This effect is countered by the rapidity of digestion of carbohydrates compared to fats. The Institute of Medicine recommends limiting fat intake to 35% of total calories to help prevent obesity and to help control saturated fat intake. A low-fat diet is not well defined, but a very low fat diet is one that gets less than 15% of daily calories from fat.


Monosaccharides (from Greek monos: single, sacchar: sugar), also called simple sugars, are the simplest form of sugar and the most basic units of carbohydrates. They cannot be further hydrolyzed to simpler chemical compounds. The general formula is CnH2nOn. They are usually colorless, water-soluble, and crystalline solids. Some monosaccharides have a sweet taste.

Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose (levulose), and galactose. Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides (such as sucrose and lactose) and polysaccharides (such as cellulose and starch). Each carbon atom that supports a hydroxyl group (so, all of the carbons except for the primary and terminal carbon) is chiral, giving rise to a number of isomeric forms, all with the same chemical formula. For instance, galactose and glucose are both aldohexoses, but have different physical structures and chemical properties.


Polysaccharides () are polymeric carbohydrate molecules composed of long chains of monosaccharide units bound together by glycosidic linkages, and on hydrolysis give the constituent monosaccharides or oligosaccharides. They range in structure from linear to highly branched. Examples include storage polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen, and structural polysaccharides such as cellulose and chitin.

Polysaccharides are often quite heterogeneous, containing slight modifications of the repeating unit. Depending on the structure, these macromolecules can have distinct properties from their monosaccharide building blocks. They may be amorphous or even insoluble in water. When all the monosaccharides in a polysaccharide are the same type, the polysaccharide is called a homopolysaccharide or homoglycan, but when more than one type of monosaccharide is present they are called heteropolysaccharides or heteroglycans.Natural saccharides are generally of simple carbohydrates called monosaccharides with general formula (CH2O)n where n is three or more. Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and glyceraldehyde. Polysaccharides, meanwhile, have a general formula of Cx(H2O)y where x is usually a large number between 200 and 2500. When the repeating units in the polymer backbone are six-carbon monosaccharides, as is often the case, the general formula simplifies to (C6H10O5)n, where typically 40≤n≤3000.

As a rule of thumb, polysaccharides contain more than ten monosaccharide units, whereas oligosaccharides contain three to ten monosaccharide units; but the precise cutoff varies somewhat according to convention. Polysaccharides are an important class of biological polymers. Their function in living organisms is usually either structure- or storage-related. Starch (a polymer of glucose) is used as a storage polysaccharide in plants, being found in the form of both amylose and the branched amylopectin. In animals, the structurally similar glucose polymer is the more densely branched glycogen, sometimes called "animal starch". Glycogen's properties allow it to be metabolized more quickly, which suits the active lives of moving animals.

Cellulose and chitin are examples of structural polysaccharides. Cellulose is used in the cell walls of plants and other organisms, and is said to be the most abundant organic molecule on Earth. It has many uses such as a significant role in the paper and textile industries, and is used as a feedstock for the production of rayon (via the viscose process), cellulose acetate, celluloid, and nitrocellulose. Chitin has a similar structure, but has nitrogen-containing side branches, increasing its strength. It is found in arthropod exoskeletons and in the cell walls of some fungi. It also has multiple uses, including surgical threads. Polysaccharides also include callose or laminarin, chrysolaminarin, xylan, arabinoxylan, mannan, fucoidan and galactomannan.

Specific carbohydrate diet

The specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) is a restrictive diet originally created to manage celiac disease, which limits the use of complex carbohydrates (disaccharides and polysaccharides). Monosaccharides are allowed, and various foods including fish, aged cheese and honey are included. Prohibited foods include cereal grains, potatoes and lactose-containing dairy products. It is a gluten-free diet since no grains are permitted.

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