The Maillard reaction offers a perfect example of how basic organic chemistry—studies of the reaction mechanism between sugar and amino acids and the structural identification of possible intermediate compounds—has made it possible to explain some of the most interesting and important interactions in food systems.

Polysaccharide Polymers

The past two decades have witnessed an increasing interest in the relationship between molecular structure and functional mechanism of food polysaccharides. Growth in the knowledge of polymer chemistry has made a dramatic change in the way food scientists interpret structure and function of food polysaccharides.

One milestone in this area is the elucidation of the gelling mechanism of alginate in the early 1970s (20). The mechanism of gelation has been shown to be the interaction between calcium ions and the polyguluronate blocks of alginate polymer. Such interactions provide junctions that cross-link alginate polymers into a three-dimensional network, known as the "egg box" model (Fig. 5).

The concept of junction-zone linking long-chain polymers has since been included in explaining various kinds of gelation. For example, carrageenan polymers are known to associate by intermolecular double helices. Gelation oc-

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