Sugars

The Different Types of Sugards and their Effect on Health

eating-sweetsAlso known as monosaccharide, sugar is a carbohydrate in nature and it is responsible for the sweet tastes in various types of foods. During the digestion process, these simple sugars do not undergo break-down as they are naturally small and can be absorbed in blood without any difficulties.

Most of the absorption is done in the small intestines and later released into the bloodstream via the mucosal lining. The level of blood sugar depends on the type of monosaccharide consumed and the amount of sweetness it contains.

Galactose

This type of sugar is characterized by a 6-sided structure (hexagon) formed by the carbon and oxygen atoms. The most important thing to note about this sugar is that it is rarely found in most foods, save for the peas. When it binds itself to glucose, the end result is the lactose (milk sugar).

However, there is a very uncommon genetic health condition, galactosemia, which affects 1 in every 60,000 new born; according to a research done by MedlinePlus. This condition makes it hard for the baby to digest galactose and therefore leads to its accumulation in the body resulting to a number of health complications. To avert these problems, it is advisable for mothers to avoid feeding babies on dairy products containing lactose.

Glucose

Otherwise referred to as dextrose, glucose stands out as the most common carbohydrate. It forms the basis of polysaccharides (more complex types of sugars) and it is characterized by a mild sweetness. In most cases, it does not exist as a single molecule and this explains why all disaccharides contain glucose as part of their two molecular compositions.

Fiber and starch molecules contain glucose and it is the responsibility of glucose to ensure steady supply of energy to the body cells and this makes it a more preferable brain fuel. The liver plays a vital role when it comes to storing and releasing the glucose for the purpose of blood sugar level regulation. In diabetes diagnosis, glucose is what is tested to determine the level of blood sugar. Glucose contains 6 carbon atoms and its chemical formula is depicted as: C6H12O6

Fructose

Just like glucose and galactose, fructose comprises of 6 atoms of carbon; however, unlike the former two, the structure formed by the oxygen and carbon atoms found in fructose assume the shape of a pentagon (5-sided). Fructose is also referred to as fruit sugar or levulose. Among all the tasting sugars, fructose is the sweetest as revealed in the “Nutrition Book”. Thus fruits and vegetables have fructose in them; honey has both fructose and glucose with sweetness in honey being as a result of fructose. Corn syrup which is mostly used to provide desserts, beverages and jams with the sweet taste, contain 50% of fructose.

Pentose

Pentoses simply refer to the sugar molecules with 5 atoms of carbon and these are present in food but in very small amounts. However, the genetic composition of every cell finds this type of sugar essentially important. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) contains ribose whereas another member of the pentose monosaccharide family, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), contains deoxyribose.

Sugar alcohols

When the atom of hydrogen present in the sugar molecule is replaced by OH or the hydroxyl group, the end result is polyol (sugar alcohol). The body is only able to absorb a very small amount of sugar alcohols and this explains why this type of sugar does not increase the amount of sugar present in blood. Examples of polyols include isomalt, sorbitol, lactitol, xylitol, erythritol and mannitol.

Just like table sugar, xylitol exhibits the same level of sweetness. In some fruits, sugar alcohols are contained in very small amounts; however, this group of monosaccharide can be synthetically manufactured in large quantities.  These types of sugars are beneficial to our health as they contain low levels of calories and are mostly used in as food sweeteners – sugar-free candies, chewing gums, chocolate, toothpaste and hard candies.

Sugars are mostly found in plant tissues but it is only in sugar beet and sugar cane where most of it is found. While sugar cane is a giant grass mainly cultivated for its abundant sugar content, sugar beet refers to a certain root crop mostly found in low temperate climates and is also a major source of sugar.

It is estimated that on average, a person consumes 24 kg of sugar per year which is equivalent to 260 calories per single day. Sugar is important in the sense that it provides the body with energy; however no nutrients are present.  In the recent past sugar has largely been linked to a number of diseases including obesity and diabetes, tooth decay and macular degeneration among other health conditions. A number of studies to clarify these claims have come up with varied results and this has been attributed to difficulties in finding people who do not consume of any kind sugar at all to be used in the studies.

 

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