CARBOHYDRATE

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IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.

               WHAT ARE CARBOHYDRATES?

Carbohydrates are made up of three elements – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbs as they are referred to by most of us are organic compounds and are synonymous with what biologists call saccharides, ie: monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

The word saccharide comes from the Greek word sakkaris which means sugar which was derived from the Arabic word sukkar which was derived from the ancient persian word for sugar – shekar. So saccharide/sugar is what biologists now call carbohydrate molecules whether they’re simple sugars such as fructose (fruit sugar) or complex ones like whole grains.

Natural saccharides are usually made up of monosaccharides. Monosaccharides can be strung together into chains of sugar molecules called polysaccharides which include disaccharides & oligosaccharides.

 

CARB-PICTURE

 

Monosaccharides in the human diet are glucose, galactose and fructose. Others include ribose. They form the basis for the more complex sugars.

 

Disaccharides such as sucrose, are formed by units of two simple sugars which are glucose and fructose or lactose which is made up of galactose and glucose, or maltose which is made up of two units of glucose. Two different monosaccharide molecules joined together are called a disaccharide. Both monosaccharides and disaccharides are commonly referred to as sugars or simple sugars while more complex saccharides are commonly referred to as complex carbohydrates.

 

Oligosaccharides according to the Oxford Dictionary, are made up of three to ten units of monosaccharides. This is one definition of oligosaccharides. Some say that it is any complex carbohydrate and others are closer to the above definition. Some include disaccharides in the definition but this makes the discussion very confusing. For the purposes of this discussion we’ll go with the Oxford Dictionary.

 

Polysaccharide is an all inclusive term which includes all saccharides with more than one simple sugar. Starch is an example of this. Starch is made up of many units of glucose molecules strung together. Polysaccharides are used for storage for future energy use and for structural purposes. When disaccharides and polysaccharides are consumed they are broken down by enzymes in the mouth, stomach and in the small intestine.   The enzymes are specific to the type of sugar.

Starch – amylase

Sucrose – sucrase

Lactose – lactase

Maltose  – maltase

Cellulose – no enzyme/can’t be broken down

 

 MONOSACCHARIDES

MONSACCHARIDES

 

GLUCOSE

Glucose is a monosaccharide which is found in plants. It also goes by the name dextrose.

Glucose is used by the human body as the ‘primary’ source of energy.

In fact glucose is found in all forms of life. When we eat some plants such as grains we eat glucose molecules grouped together to form a storage unit called starch.  In other plants such as fruits we eat both fructose and glucose bound together to form a disaccharide called sucrose.

Glucose is found as a disaccharide bound to galactose in milk called lactose.

Glucose is found as a disaccharide called maltose. Maltose consists of two glucose molecules bound together.

Finally glucose is found as a polysaccharide in cellulose. Cellulose, like starch, has many glucose molecules strung together. Cellulose is what we typically refer to as fibre.

When we eat most foods containing starches or disaccharides the molecules of glucose are separated out, beginning in the mouth by enzymes in the saliva. The food is further digested in the stomach and then sent through to the small intestines. In the small intestines glucose is handled differently depending on what it is bound to. Each combination except for cellulose has its own enzyme that breaks apart the molecular bonds to free the simple sugars.

For starch the enzyme is called amylase. The amylase enzyme breaks the chains of glucose molecules into single glucose molecules to be transported through the intestinal wall into the blood stream.

For sucrose the enzyme is sucrase that splits the glucose and fructose molecules apart preparing them for transport.

For lactose (milk) the enzyme is lactase that frees glucose and galactose to be transported through the intestinal wall. An interesting fact about lactase is that about 50% of the world’s population stops producing this enzyme as they mature making it difficult for them to digest milk in adulthood. These people become lactose intolerant.

For maltose the enzyme maltase splits the two glucose molecules apart and frees them to be carried through the intestinal wall into the blood.

Finally there is cellulose. Cellulose has no enzyme assigned to break it into single glucose molecules. Amylase can’t do it because of where the bond between the molecules is located so cellulose cannot be broken into smaller units. Cellulose therefore goes merrily on its way through the small intestine, into the large intestine and out the other end.TP

After transferring through the intestinal wall  with the aid of transfer molecules called GLUT 4 transfer units the glucose molecules are transported into the blood stream.

It is extremely important for the body to moderate glucose levels in the blood.

This is where the hormone insulin comes in.  In the pancreas insulin is released from the islands where insulin collects called islets and joins the glucose in the blood on its journey. Glucose is used by every cell in the body for energy production.  It is also the primary source of energy for the brain.  The pancreas releases just enough insulin to match the amount of blood glucose.

The insulin and the glucose are carried in the blood stream to three primary destinations to be held for use by the cells:

glucose storage

 

They go to the muscles and the liver to be stored and released as needed by the rest of the cells in the bodies organs. The excess is stored in fat cells as palmitic acid. The process of altering glucose into palmitic acid so that it can be stored is a very long and complicated one.  Palmitic acid is usually stored as belly fat and belly fat is considered the most dangerous type of fat storage for health.

CARB BLOG5

When the blood reaches these destinations insulin acts on specific cell proteins to let the ‘Glut 4 vesicles‘ again (glucose transport vesicles with 4 attachments) attach their receptors this time to the inside of the cell wall so that they can provide a tunnel for the glucose molecules to enter the cell.

Glucose molecules cannot normally transfer across the cell wall without Glut 4 vesicles and Glut 4 vesicles react when insulin tells them to. There is, however, an exception to this. Glucose can be transferred across the cell walls of muscles, without insulin, through exercise. Exercise can also create chemicals that act on Glut 4 to transfer glucose through the cell wall. Exercise plus a healthy diet can produce excellent glucose levels within our bodies giving us healthy insulin production and healthy glucose levels.

It is important here to note that excess glucose that is not taken up by the cells is, actually, very toxic to us. That is why diabetics have to be very concerned about high blood sugar. Glucose can be delivered directly to certain cells without the use of insulin. It is best when glucose is released from its storage units in the liver, fat cells and muscles in needed amounts than going in large amounts directly to these other cells.

These other cells include those in the brain, nerves, heart, blood vessels, and kidneys. This means that excess glucose in all of these cells, with the exception of the brain which is regulated differently and is able to stop excess glucose from entering, overwhelm the cell apparatus and cause damage. That is why people with consistently high blood sugar can develop eye problems, kidney damage, nerve damage to the feet and other extremities and other blood sugar related problems.

Now that the glucose is inside the cell what happens? In the cell are tiny little organisms called mitochondria. In these mitochondria all the energy we need for the efficient operation of our bodies is manufactured. This energy carrier is called ATP or adenosine triphosphate.

ATP is the energy carrier for all known organisms. The food sources that are used to create this energy come from glucose, fats and protein. The body chooses glucose first, then fat and finally protein.

Protein is not a good source for energy production as that means your muscles ultimately will be eaten alive, literally.  For now let’s  talk about glucose.

Glucose enters into the mitochondria and is absorbed into the outside folds of the membrane. Here it is broken down into its basic units releasing its ‘chemical bond energy’ – its electrons. These electrons are then transferred through the wall of the membrane using little pumps called molecular pumps. At this point oxygen becomes very important. Oxygen is used to increase the use of electrons in creating ATP molecules.  ATP can be produced without oxygen but the increase is 18 times as much from each glucose molecule with oxygen. Inside these pumps are enzymes called ATP synthase. These enzymes open up a channel for the electrons to transfer into the membrane and create ATP molecules.

ATP is the most important energy source for most of our cellular functions.

  1. Adenosine Triphosphate is used in the energising process to create DNA and RNA
  2. It is used to create proteins.
  3.  It also is used to transport large molecules across cell membranes.
  4.  It is involved in maintaining the structure of our cells and in the contraction of our muscles making it possible for us to move and to breath.

 

Back to the mitochondria in the muscle, liver and fat cells.  What happens when the mitochondria in these cells can’t take anymore glucose? The excess glucose is stored in units called glycogen in both the liver and the muscles. Glycogen is the storage unit for glucose in humans while starch is the storage unit in plants. Because we need glucose 24 hours a day for every organ in our bodies our bodies have a secondary regulatory system and that starts with glycogen. If at some point during the day there is not enough glucose coming from the blood then a hormone called glycogon starts the process called glycogenolysis in which the stored glucose is released from its glycogen storage units and sent throughout the body for use by the cells. If there is even a greater excess of glucose than there are glycogen units then the glucose is stored as fat in fat cells.
If there is a problem with getting the glucose out of the blood stream and into the cells of the liver, muscles or fat because of problems with insulin or its receptors then the result is high blood sugar. At this point the body is unable to regulate glucose with either insulin or glycogon.

Problems with insulin or its receptors can be caused by genetics as in the case of type 1 diabetes or by hormonal (insulin) fatigue due to constant and excessive consumption of simple sugars as in type II diabetes.

 

FRUCTOSE

Fructose, unlike glucose, is not necessary for our existence.  In nature it provides an incentive to choose colourful fruits that are full of good nutrients and that is how it is meant to be consumed – in the fruit or in tiny amounts in honey, maple syrup or molasses as a sweetener.

 

fruitUnlike glucose, fructose is not metabolised throughout the body. When fructose enters the blood stream through the intestinal wall it is transported immediately to the liver and that is where it is metabolised. It cannot be transported as fructose out of the liver.

The process that fructose goes through to become metabolised is called fructolysis. In the liver fructose is absorbed through the intestinal wall into the liver cells called hepatocytes by the same type of transporters that glucose is absorbed by only this time it is a GLUT 2 transporter that is used initially. The GLUT 4 transporter can transport fructose molecules across the intestinal wall  but only when they are accompanied by an equal number of glucose molecules.

Once in the cells of the liver fructose is processed by the mitochondria differently.

The pathways  lead to:

  1. Excessive uric acid build up.
  2. Conversion to lactic acid and or glucose
  3.  Increased production of glycogen storage units. Glycogen synthesis takes precedence over fat formation. Glycogen is natures way of storing glucose in the liver.
  4. Increased fat production and fat storage leading to fatty build up in the liver and increased fat/triglycerides in the blood. If you’ve eaten or drunk large quantities of fructose then the production of fat becomes necessary because the body has to do something with the excess glucose that is being created. Excess glucose converted from fructose that cannot be maintained in glycogen units is transferred to adipose tissue (fat storage cells) to be stored. Here it is converted to the saturated fatty acid palmitic acid.

Fat storage in the liver can lead to liver disease or cirrhosis of the liver and fat in the blood ( particularly as palmitic acid) leads to cardiovascular problems. For a more advanced  understanding of the biology of these processes please visit the following site: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/42

A few centuries ago we got fructose in our diets by eating fruits and by consuming honey in moderation as it was very expensive and difficult to attain. Black strap molasses and maple syrup were not yet universal commodities.

The incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and related diseases were not as universally in play as they are now. Our modern day diets are heavily dependent on sugar as a dietary additive. White table sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup are added to practically every processed food we eat.

To add insult to injury there are two hormones that guide our appetites that fructose affects or better said does not affect. Following is an excerpt from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which outlines the development of added fructose to our diets.

“The intake of dietary fructose has increased significantly from 1970 to 2000. There has been a 25% increase in available “added sugars” during this period (4). The Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals from 1994 to 1996 showed that the average person had a daily added sugars intake of 79 g (equivalent to 316 kcal/d or 15% of energy intake), approximately half of which was fructose. More important, persons who are ranked in the top one-third of fructose consumers ingest 137 g added sugars/d, and those in the top 10% consume 178 g/d, with half of that amount being fructose. If there are health concerns with fructose, then this increased intake could aggravate those problems. Before the European encounter with the New World 500 y ago and the development of the worldwide sugar industry, fructose in the human diet was limited to a few items. For example, honey, dates, raisins, molasses, and figs have a content of >10% of this sugar, whereas a fructose content of 5–10% by weight is found in grapes, raw apples, apple juice, persimmons, and blueberries. Milk, the main nourishment for infants, has essentially no fructose, and neither do most vegetables and meats, which indicates that human beings had little dietary exposure to fructose before the mass production of sugar. Most fructose in the American diet comes not from fresh fruit, but from HFCS or sucrose (sugar) that is found in soft drinks and sweets, which typically have few other nutrients (2). Soft drink consumption, which provides most of this fructose, has increased dramatically in the past 6 decades, rising from a per-person consumption of 90 servings/y (≈2 servings/wk) in 1942 to that of 600 servings/y (≈2 servings/d) in 2000 (5). More than 50% of preschool children consume some calorie-sweetened beverages (6). Children of this age would not normally be exposed to fructose, let alone in these high amounts. Because both HFCS and sucrose are “delivery vehicles for fructose,” the load of fructose has increased in parallel with the use of sugar.”    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full

The consumption of fructose from fruit is quite low usually coming in at less than 20 g per day. Not only that but it is bound by fibre and is not as easily absorbed as commercially added fructose.

The Hormones that Count when it comes to Losing Weight:

  1.  Ghrelin is a hormone that is produced in the cell of the lining of the stomach and the pancreas. Ghrelin tells us that we are hungry. After we eat ghrelin levels normally drop. It is also produced in the hypothalamus in the brain. From here it stimulates “growth hormone’ but for now we are talking about hunger.
  2. Leptin is the satiety hormone.  Leptin tells us that we need more food when our blood sugar drops.  Leptin regulates the fat stores in our bodies.  It can be affected by many things such as emotional stress, exercise, sex hormone levels, insulin levels,  sleep deprivation and obesity. Leptin is created in our fat cells and is responsible for the regulation of the amount of fat stored in our bodies by adjusting our sense of hunger in relation to the amount of energy we are using.  The odd thing is that when we become obese out leptin signalling gets confused and does not function well.

  3. The third player in this scenario is insulin. Insulin is the response our bodies have to excessive amounts of glucose in the blood stream but what else does insulin do?

Insulin also helps the body take most amino acids into the cells. It does this with all the amino acids except tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by the brain to produce the feel good transmitter serotonin.

Insulin also tells our fat cells to take the fats that are in our blood and then store them as fatty acids in our tissues. If insulin levels are low because there is little or at least not enough glucose in the blood then the fat cells release the fatty acids to replace glucose as an energy source.

“So how does fructose play a role in the workings of these three hormones?” you may ask.

Two of these three hormones are dependent on signals sent to the central nervous system to tell them when to become active and when to back off.  When glucose enters the blood stream signals are sent to the central nervous system to tell them to release insulin to carry the glucose to the cells.  When we are low in glucose insulin gets our fat storing cells to release the fat to be used as energy.

When we are full,  the hormone grehlin acts to signal the brain to tell it that the blood has enough fat and/or glucose and that it should suppress our appetites.

The problem with fructose is that it is metabolised in the liver and doesn’t enter our blood stream as fructose after it has reached the liver.  Fructose doesn’t have chemical signals to tell these hormones to increase or decrease their activity.  It takes fructose a longer time to be  processed into glucose and even longer before that stored glucose is released into the blood stream thereby allowing us to eat much larger numbers of calories than leptin would normally allow us to consume. When our diets consist of high levels of fructose, leptin does not get the message that we have consumed too much for our energy needs  because fructose takes so long to be converted to glucose and fat before it can be recognised by leptin.

The trick therefore is to not eat large quantities of fructose. It’s nice to have a little sweet now and then but bulging fat bellies are not sweet they’re deadly!

There is a very interesting video  Sugar: The Bitter Truth – YouTube  produced by Robert H. Lustig, MD, University of California, San Francisco Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology that explains the science behind what fructose does in the body.

 

GALACTOSE

Galactose is a monosaccharide that is not as sweet as glucose. When galactose combines with glucose it forms a disaccharide called lactose. Lactose is the sugar in milk and some other products such as sugar beets, gums and mucilages and can also be synthesized by the body. When we drink milk our bodies breakdown the lactose back into glucose and galactose by breaking down the lactose with the enzymes lactase and B-galactosidase.

In the lactating mother lactose is re-synthesized to be used for breast milk by the body using both galactose and glucose. It has been thought, after two studies, that galactose might contribute to ovarian cancer but the Harvard School of Public Health showed no correlation between the two after doing a pooled analysis of many more studies.

Galactose and our blood type:

Who knew that one compound could make such a difference. Getting the wrong blood type can have deadly consequences. Both blood type B and blood type A have one additional galactose monosaccharide each more than blood type O. http://www.galactose.org

 

Blood type A has N-acetylgalactosamine and type B has galactose. That extra saccharide can mean the difference between life and death if a blood transfusion is needed.

 

MANNOSE

Mannose is a monosaccharide. It is a close relative of glucose but with vastly different functions. In humans it is involved in the glycosylation of proteins which is the attaching of sugar molecules to protein molecules to form polymers that help in the folding of proteins and in helping cells to cling together.

Mannose can be found in black currants, red currants, Gooseberries, cranberries, aloe vera, green beans, capsicum, cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes and turnip. http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/glyconutrients-food-sources.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannose http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopolymers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycosylation

 

INOSITOL

Inositol is a sugar but not in the ordinary sense because it is produced in the human body from glucose.  For this reason it is not considered an essential nutrient as it can be synthesised by the body.

It was once included with the B vitamins but was removed because of its nonessential status. It has half the sweetness of table sugar but does not get processed by the body the same way.

Inositol is important to the structure of certain messenger signalling molecules in our cells. It is also an important part of the structural phospholipids called phosphatidylinositols and the phosphates that are associated with it.

Inositol is involved in:

  1. Insulin signal transduction
  2. Connecting the cytoskeleton ( the ‘scaffolding’ for the cell)
  3. Guiding nerve connections
  4. Controlling calcium levels outside the cell.
  5. Maintaining cell membrane electrical balance.
  6. The breakdown of fats
  7. Gene expression.

Inositol is found in fruits and particularly in cantaloupe and oranges.  A form of inositol called phytic acid is found in cereals, nuts and beans. In this form inositol is not bioavailable. It is also found in lecithins (found in fatty acids, triglycerides, glycerols, etc. ie: egg yolk, plants, fish and chicken) and as such is bioavailable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosaccharide

inositol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inositol

 

RIBOSE

Ribose or D-ribose is a simple sugar and an organic compound.

D-ribose is necessary for the creation and function of our bodies number one energiser ATP ( adenosine triphosphate).

D-ribose is part of the make up of our genetic material. DNA – deoxy(ribo)nucleic acid and RNA – (ribo)nucleic acid.

D-ribose is synthesized by our bodies as we need it therefore it is not stored and consequently can’t be measured to find out if we have enough or not. There is a bit of controversy as to wether D-ribose is useful when ingested from food or supplements or not. Some say it is broken down in the intestines and is not of any use to us in its digested form but a few small studies say that there is a positive response to it in people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

More studies need to be performed and more analysis of D-ribose metabolism need to done before there is clear evidence of the effect of dietary and supplemental D-ribose.

 

XYLOSE

Xylose is a monosaccharide that is considered a minor nutrient but is largely excreted through the kidneys. It is the first saccharide used to build anionic polysaccharides such as chondroitin sulfate which is a major component of cartilage.

Xylose can be found in pears, blackberries, raspberries, psyllium fibre, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peas, cabbage, corn and green beans.

DISACCHARIDES

As stated at the beginning disaccharides are made up of units of two simple sugars. Some examples of disaccharides are:

morgue file000748293917Common table sugar which is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

Lactose or milk sugar which is made up of glucose and galactose. High Fructose Corn Syrup which is made up of glucose and fructose with higher amounts of fructose to increase sweetness.

Maple Sugar which  ranges between high levels of sucrose and fructose to lower levels depending on the colour of the syrup.

Molasses is a byproduct from the production of table sugar which comes from cane sugar although industrial molasses can be created from sugar beets. Depending on the production method, it is made up of varying levels of sucrose and fructose. Black strap molasses has a significant amount of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron in it.

Brown rice syrup is made up of 45% maltose which is made up of 2 units of glucose and 3% free glucose.

CARB-HEADERHoney is made up of 38.5% fructose and 31% glucose.

Agave syrup is made up of 56% fructose and 20% glucose. This is not a good choice to use as a sweetener as the fructose levels can range as high as 92%.

Barley malt syrup is made up primarily of maltose which is made from 2 glucose units.

Corn syrup is composed of glucose units.

The amount of fructose in a sweetener decides the sweetness of the product as fructose is the sweetest of the monosaccharides followed by glucose which is less than half as sweet as fructose then by galactose which is less than half as sweet as glucose. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaccharide

OLIGOSACCHARIDES

Oligosaccharides have short chains of from three to ten units of monosaccharides.

There are two oligosaccharide groups that are valuable to human beings. One is fructo-oligosaccharide and the other is galacto-oligosaccharide.

Oligosaccharides are not processed in the small intestine but pass through the intestines into the bowel. It is in the lower intestine and in the bowel that they are metabolised but unlike nutrients that are metabolised in the upper intestines oligosacchrides are not broken down by enzymes. They are broken down by the bacteria in the gut.

FRUCTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (FOS)

Fructo-oligosaccharides are found in foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, barley, leeks, bananas, onions, asparagus, wheat and jicama. They are also produced commercially from the polysaccharide, inulin. The reason they are used commercially is because they are about 30 to 50 percent as sweet as sugar but unlike sugar do not raise blood sugar levels.

FOS are believed to promote calcium absorption and are considered to be prebiotics. Prebiotics are what bacteria in the gut (in this case the bowel) breakdown for use by the body. Prebiotics can not be digested in the mouth, stomach or upper intestines.

FOS are a form of dietary fibre. When FOS are fermented in the bowel they produce acids that are used by the body as energy but this fermentation process also has the unfortunate and often unpleasant effect of creating gas. The problem with the processed FOS is that there is not only the unpleasant production of flatulence which is generated by a bacteria known as clostridium but it also is fermented by other bacteria that are unfriendly to the human body. One bacteria that is cited in the literature is Klebsiella which is implicated in the pathology of a spinal disfunction known as ankylosing spondylitis.

Another bacteria that uses fructo-oligosaccharides to generate problems in our bodies is e-coli. Our bodies can handle the amount of FOS it gets from food but when we start taking large quantities of it in processed form then it starts to create ill effects.

GALACTO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (GOS)

Naturally occurring Galacto-oligosaccharides are available to us only as infants. This type of oligosaccharide is found in mother’s milk. However when we stop breastfeeding GOS is no longer available to us in natural form.

GOS act as prebiotics. Like FOS they are broken down for use by our bodies in the bowel. Unlike FOS they do not produce gas and the discomfort that comes with it unless taken in excessive amounts.

GOS increase the activity and growth of good bacteria, prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, stimulate the immune system, help with the synthesis of certain vitamins such as biotin (vitamin B7) and they assist with absorbing essential nutrients into the body.

Science has produced galacto-oligosaccharides from cows milk for human consumption by adults. These replications have been used in food products for a few years now and appear to be effective. It has been difficult to replicate the exact molecular structure of the GOS that we consumed as infants. The future will tell us if this is a wise addition or if it will create further problems that have not yet revealed themselves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligosaccharide

POLYSACCHARIDES

Polysaccharides are made up of more that ten units of simple sugars such as fructose, glucose or galactose.

If they are made up of all the same sugar then they are considered to be homopolysaccharides.

If they are made up of more than one type then they are called heteropolysaccharides.

Basically the functions of polysaccharides are broken into two categories:

Storage polysaccharides

The most important storage polysaccharide in humans is starch which is used for storage in plants and when consumed by humans is broken down in the intestines into glucose which is used for energy throughout the body and glycogen which is used to store glucose for future use in the human body. Starch can be broken down in the upper intestines into its individual glucose molecules which are then transferred through the intestinal wall into the blood stream.

Structural polysaccharides

Structural polysaccharides include cellulose which forms the cell walls in green plants and chitin which forms the cell walls of many things such as shell fish, insects, fungi and octopus and pectin which is found inside plant cell walls. Many forms of structural polysaccharides act as dietary fibre/soluble fibre in the human body when ingested.

Most structural polysaccharides cannot be metabolised by humans. Some, however, can be broken down by bacteria in the bowel. Dietary fibre is used by our bodies to alter the environment of our intestinal tract and to redirect some of the bodies activities. Soluble fibre works to absorb excess glucose before it is absorbed through the intestinal wall. This helps to lower blood sugar levels. It also helps to lower the fat levels in our blood by reducing the amount of metabolised fats and after being fermented by bacteria in the bowel it releases short chain fatty acids (the good fats).

Soluble fibre also helps remove bile acids in the small intestines and carries them out of the body thus lowering cholesterol. Insoluble fibre helps to move food through the intestines easily creating a bouncy affect and preventing constipation and consequently the buildup of harmful bacteria. The following is an excerpt from:

http://www.ivy-rose.co.uk/HumanBiology/Nutrition/Non-Starch_Polysaccharides.php

“Examples of non-starch polysaccharides:

This list of compounds classed as non-starch polysaccharides (NSP)s is not complete but includes examples of common NSPs.

  1. alginates come from seaweed act as thickeners
  2. arabinoxylans in both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre benefit as antioxidants
  3. beta-glucans: insoluble beta glucans are able to modulate the immune system – soluble  beta-glucans help in digestive process.
  4. cellulose found in plants bulking agent for feces
  5.  chitins used for medical materials.  Can be allergenic
  6. gellan used as a stabiliser
  7.  fucoidan used as a stabiliser in liquids
  8. guar  used as a gelling agent in foods
  9. inulin soluble fibre metabolised in the bowel helps lower blood sugar and     cholesterol promotes  healthy gut bacterial flora
  10. lignin
  11. pectin gelling agent source of soluble fibre
  12.  xanthan used as a thickener and stabilising agent and some other carbohydrates with β-glycosidic linkages.

Some sources also include certain oligosaccharides as “types of non-starch polysaccharides”. That is understandable because oligosaccharides consist of molecules whose structure is “more than two monosaccharide molecules joined together”. However, oligosaccharides are increasingly classified separately from polysaccharides so their inclusion in lists of “examples of NSPs” may cause confusion.”

Wikipedia references:

alginates http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alginic_acid arabinoxylans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabinoxylan beta-glucans http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta-glucan cellulose http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cellulose chitins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitin fucoidan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucoidan galactomannan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactomannan gellan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gellan_gum guar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guar inulin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inulin lignin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lignin pectin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pectin xanthan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum xylose http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylose

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polysaccharides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbohydrate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetaldehyde