Chapter 4

The Carbohydrates: Sugars,
Starches, and Fibres
The Chemist’s View of Carbohydrates
• Carbohydrates are made of carbon,
hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
• These atoms form chemical bonds that
follow the laws of nature.
The Simple Carbohydrates
• Monosaccharrides are single sugars (most are
– Glucose serves as the essential energy source, and
is commonly known as blood sugar or dextrose.
– Fructose is the sweetest. It occurs naturally in honey
and fruits, and is added to many foods in the form of
high-fructose corn syrup.
– Galactose rarely occurs naturally as a single sugar.
The Simple Carbohydrates
• Disaccharides are pairs of monosaccharides, one of
which is always glucose.
– Condensation reactions link monosaccharides together.
– Hydrolysis reactions split molecules and commonly occur during
– Maltose consists of two glucose units. It is produced during the
germination of seeds and fermentation.
– Sucrose is fructose and glucose combined. It is refined from
sugarcane and sugar beets, tastes sweet, and is readily
– Lactose is galactose and glucose combined. It is found in milk
and milk products.
The Complex Carbohydrates
• Few (oligosaccharides) or many
(polysaccharides) glucose units
bound/linked together in straight or
branched chains.
The Complex Carbohydrates
• Glycogen
– storage form of glucose in the body
– provides a rapid release of energy when
• Starches
– storage form of glucose in plants
– found in grains, tubers, and legumes.
The Complex Carbohydrates
• Dietary fibre provide structure in plants, are very
diverse, and cannot be broken down by human
– Soluble fibres are viscous and can be digested by
intestinal bacteria (this property is also known as
fermentability). These fibres are found in fruits and
– Insoluble fibres are non-viscous and are not digested
by intestinal bacteria. These fibres are found in grains
and vegetables.
The Complex Carbohydrates
• Fibre Sources
– Dietary fibre is found in plant foods.
– Functional fibres are health-benefiting fibres that are
added to foods or supplements.
– Total fibre considers both dietary and functional fibres.
• Resistant starches escape digestion and are found
in legumes, raw potatoes and unripe bananas.
• Phytic acid or phytate has a close association with
fibre and binds some minerals.
Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates
• Carbohydrate Digestion
– In the mouth, the salivary enzyme amylase
begins to hydrolyse starch into short
polysaccharides and maltose.
– In the stomach, acid continues to hydrolyse
starch while dietary fibre delays gastric
emptying and provides a feeling of fullness
Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates
• Carbohydrate Digestion
– In the small intestine, pancreatic amylase
among other enzymes (maltase, sucrase, and
lactase) hydrolyzes starches to disaccharides
and monosaccharides.
– In the large intestine, dietary fibre remains
and attract water, soften stools and ferment.
Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates
• Carbohydrate Absorption
– primarily takes place in the small intestine
– glucose and galactose are absorbed by active
– fructose is absorbed by facilitated diffusion.
Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates
• Lactose Intolerance
– Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort,
and diarrhoea.
– Causes include lactase deficiency due to a natural
decrease that occurs with aging or damaged intestinal
– Prevalence
• lowest in Scandinavians and northern Europeans
• highest in Southeast Asians and native North Americans.
Digestion and Absorption of Carbohydrates
• Lactose Intolerance
– Dietary changes
• increase consumption of milk products gradually
• mix dairy with other foods
• spread dairy intake throughout the day
• use of acidophilus milk, yoghurt, and other fermented
• use of enzymes
• individualisation of diets
• must be careful that vitamin and mineral deficiencies do not
Glucose in the Body
• A Preview of Carbohydrate Metabolism
– The body stores glucose as glycogen in liver and
muscle cells.
– The body uses glucose for energy if glycogen stores
are available.
– If glycogen stores are depleted, the body makes
glucose from protein.
• Gluconeogenesis is the conversion of protein to glucose.
• Protein-sparing action is having adequate carbohydrate in
the diet to prevent the breakdown of protein for energy.
Glucose in the Body
• A Preview of Carbohydrate Metabolism
– Ketone bodies are made from fat fragments.
• The accumulation of ketone bodies in the blood is called
• Ketosis upsets the acid-base balance in the body.
– The body can use glucose to make body fat when
carbohydrates are consumed excessively.
Glucose in the Body
• The Constancy of Blood Glucose
– Maintaining glucose homeostasis
• Low blood glucose may cause dizziness and
• High blood glucose may cause fatigue.
• Extreme fluctuations can be fatal.
Glucose in the Body
• The Constancy of Blood Glucose
– The regulating hormones
• insulin moves glucose into the cells and helps to lower blood
sugar levels
• glucagon brings glucose out of storage and raises blood
sugar levels
• epinephrine acts quickly to bring glucose out of storage
during times of stress.
– Balance glucose within the normal range by eating
balanced meals regularly with adequate complex
– Blood glucose can fall outside the normal range with
hypoglycemia or diabetes.
Glucose in the Body
• The Constancy of Blood Glucose
– Diabetes
• type 1 diabetes is the less common type with no insulin
produced by the body
• type 2 diabetes is the more common type where fat cells
resist insulin
• prediabetes is blood glucose that is higher than normal but
below the diagnosis of diabetes.
– Hypoglycaemia is low blood glucose and can often be
controlled by dietary changes.
Glucose in the Body
• The Constancy of Blood Glucose
– Glycaemic response is how quickly the blood glucose
rises and elicits an insulin response.
• Glycaemic index classifies foods according to their potential
for raising blood glucose.
• Glycaemic load refers to a food’s glycaemic index and the
amount of carbohydrate the food contains.
• The benefit of the glycaemic index is controversial.
Health Effects and Recommended
Intakes of Sugars
• Sugar poses no major health problem except
dental caries.
• Excessive intakes may displace nutrients and
contribute to obesity.
• Consuming foods with added sugars should be
• Naturally occurring sugars from fruits,
vegetables and milk are acceptable sources.
Health Effects and Recommended
Intakes of Sugars
• Health Effects of Sugars
– Foods with added sugars have sugars listed as a first
– Nutrient deficiencies may develop from the intake of
empty energy.
• Just because a substance is natural does not mean it is
nutritious (e.g. honey).
– Dental caries may be caused by bacteria residing in
dental plaque and the length of time sugars have
contact with the teeth.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
• Controversies Surrounding Sugars
– Excessive sugar intake can contribute to the
development of body fat.
– Sugar may be able to alter blood lipid levels and
contribute to heart disease in some.
– There is no scientific evidence that sugar causes
misbehaviour in children and criminal behaviour in
– There is a theory that sugar increases serotonin
levels, which can lead to cravings and addictions.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
• Recommended Intakes of Sugars
– Because added sugars deliver energy but few
or no nutrients, the Dietary Guidelines for
Australian Adults urges consumers to
consume only a moderate amounts of sugars
and food containing added sugars.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
Starch and Fibres
• Health Effects of Starch and Dietary Fibre
– may be some protection from heart disease and
• soluble dietary fibre binds with bile and thereby lower blood
cholesterol levels
• dietary fibre may also displace fat in the diet
– reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by decreasing
glucose absorption
– enhance the health of the GI tract which can then
block the absorption of unwanted particles
– may protect against colon cancer by removing
potential cancer-causing agents from the body.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
Starch and Fibres
• Health Effects of Starch and Dietary Fibre
– They promote weight control because
complex carbohydrates provide less fat and
added sugar.
– Harmful effects of excessive dietary fibre
• displaces energy and nutrient-dense foods
• abdominal discomfort and distention
• may interfere with nutrient absorption.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
Starch and Fibres
• Recommended Intakes of Starch and
Dietary Fibre
– The RDI for carbohydrate is set at 130 grams per day,
based on the average minimum amount of glucose
used by the brain.
– The Dietitians Association of Australia recommends
eating 30 grams of dietary fibre daily.
Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
Starch and Fibres
• Recommended Intakes of Fibre
– FDA recommends 25 grams for a 2000-kcalorie diet.
– DRI at 14 grams per 1000-kcalorie intake (28 grams
for a 2000-kcalorie diet)
– American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35
grams per day.
– World Health Organization suggests no more than 40
grams per day.

Health Effects and Recommended Intakes of
Starch and Fibres
• From Guidelines to Groceries
– bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles – when selecting from
this group of foods, be sure to make at least half wholegrain
– vegetables – the amount of carbohydrate depends primarily on
its starch content.
– fruit – vary in water, dietary fibre and sugar content.
– milks, yoghurt and cheese – contain carbohydrate; cheese is
– meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes – meats are low
but nuts and legumes have some carbohydrate
– food labels list grams of total carbohydrate, dietary fibre and
Alternatives to Sugar
Artificial Sweeteners
• Artificial sweeteners are also called sugar
replacers and non-nutritive sweeteners.
• Saccharin
– used primarily in soft drinks and as a tabletop sweetener
– rapidly excreted in the urine
– does not accumulate in the body
– has been removed from list of cancer-causing
Artificial Sweeteners
• Acesulfame-K (acesulfame potassium)
– research confirms safety
• Sucralose
– made from sugar
– passes through digestive tract
• Alitame and cyclamate
– very few food items use these sweeteners.
Artificial Sweeteners
• Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the level of
consumption, maintained every day and still safe by
a wide margin.
– Moderation and variety are still recommended.
• Artificial sweeteners and weight control
– Much research is still being done.
– Using artificial sweeteners will not automatically
reduce energy intake.
Sugar Replacers
• also called nutritive sweeteners, sugar
alcohols, and polyols
• maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt,
and lactitol
• absorbed more slowly and metabolized
differently in the body
• low glycaemic response
• side effects include GI discomfort.

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