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compounds consist of several hundred or even thousands of monosaccharide units. The properties of polysaccharides are determined by the species of monosaccharides in the polymer backbone, the types of linkages between residues, and the extent and type of chain branching.

Glucans are polymers of glucose and the major polysaccharides in the diet. The most important glucans are starch, glycogen, and cellulose. Glyco-gen is the short-term storage form of glucose in animal tissues. Starch is the most common digestible storage polysaccharide in plants, and cellulose is a major structural component of plant cell walls (Figure 3). Some nutritionally important polysac-charides and their significance are outlined in Table 4.

Polysaccharides with a linkages have a helical shape (e.g., the amylose starch molecule), while those with ß linkages generally have a linear or flat ribbon-like molecule (e.g., the cellulose molecule) (Figure 3).

Polysaccharide molecules can be linear or branched. Branches can be formed through any unlinked hydroxyl group and vary from alternating and consecutive single-unit branches to multiple-unit branches (ramified structure). Polysaccharides that are highly branched tend to be soluble in water, because the chain structure prevents hydrogen bonding. Linear polysaccharides tend to be insoluble in water, unless they possess structural irregularities.

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