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Carbohydrates. Anna Drew with grateful acknowledgement for inspirational teaching received at The School of Pharmacy, University of London. Uses green plants store energy as CHO eg starch structural material (form large proportion of plant biomass) eg cellulose Structures

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Anna Drew

with grateful acknowledgement for inspirational teaching received at

The School of Pharmacy, University of London

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Uses

    • green plants

      • store energy as CHO

        • eg starch

      • structural material (form large proportion of plant biomass)

        • eg cellulose

  • Structures

    • mono = 1 unit

    • di = 2 units (useful in pharmacy)

    • oligo = 2-8 units

    • poly = N units

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Type sugar varies enormously

  • Formation

    • sugars are formed as a result of photosynthesis

      • glucose-6-phosphate and fructose-6-phosphate

        • hydrolysed to glucose or fructose and converted to starch or consumed as energy

        • form sugar nucleotides with UTP or ATP -> uridine diphosphoglucose etc and converted to different sugars

    • sugars unite with a wide variety of compounds to form glycosides



  • 3-9 carbon atom sugars

    • (pentoses 5, hexoses 6 most common in plants)

  • have to be obtained by chemical reactions

  • only a few are free in plant

    • many as polysaccharides

      [A] Dextrose (glucose)

      • dextrose-α-D-glucopyranose (pyranose form)

        • produced by hydrolysis of starch-HCl under heat pressure (45lb per sq in for 30min)

        • don’t want a mixture eg with maltose in

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Uses:

    • nutrient replenishment PO or IV

      • dextrose injection

      • dextrose + saline (NaCl) injection

      • dextrose + sodium citrate injection

      • other forms

        [B] Glucuronic acid

  • 6C: Ch2OH -> acid (glucuronic or gluconic)

    • from oxidation of glucose

  • Uses:

    • as calcium or ferrous salts

      • calcium glucuronate for osteoporosis (loss of calcium from skeleton etc)

      • ferrous gluconate for anaemias (gluconate form less irritant to GI tract and better absorbed than other salts)

Carbohydrates 1181797

[C] Liquid glucose

  • Mixture of dextrose, maltose or dextrins

    • from incomplete hydrolysis of starch

      • (less pressure 30lb per sq in)

  • Uses:

    • as sweetners, substitutes for sucrose in syrups

      [D] Fructose

  • Occurs in fruits

    • obtained from hydrolysis of sucrose

  • Uses:

    • as sweetner in diabetic foods instead of glucose (not a problem since it is not easily metabolised)



Condensation of 2 monosaccharide molecules

Two main ones:

[1] Sucrose

= α-D-glycopyranosyl-β-D-fructofuranose

= glucose + fructose

Main sources:

  • Sugar cane Saccharum officinarium

    • crushed, boiled in lime, coagulated protein removed by filtration, decolourised, then crystallised (remainder in cattle food)

    • Used as a sweetening agent

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Sugar beet Beta vulgaris

    • sliced and boiled in hot water, then as above

    • Uses:

      • cherry/raspberry juice as a masker

      • esters – many OH and ethanolic groups can be added to form esters easily – used as emulsifiers and wetting agents or dispersants, lotions, gels – non-irritant so can be used internally

        [2] Lactose

        = galactose + glucose


  • does occur in plants but normally obtained from cows milk (commercial by-product of cheese)

    Used as:

  • tablet diluent esp in antibiotic preparations

  • nutrient in infant foods

  • less sweet than sucrose



  • Sugar alcohols

    • occur naturally

    • produced from reduction of unit sugars

      • (removal of aldehyde or keto group)

    • Sorbitol (D-glucitol)

      • From sorbose in

        • Sorbus aucuparia (mountain ash red berries)

        • many rosaceous fruits

        • seaweeds

    • Mannitol

      • From mannose in

        • Travinus ornus (damaged stems)

        • seaweeds (main commerical source)

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Uses:

    • both used as alcohols

    • less sticky to deal with in biochemistry

    • Mannitol:

      • limited uses

      • diagnostic reagent in kidney tests

        • not metabolised

      • diluent

      • diabetic foods

        • Not as sweet as sucrose or glucose

    • Sorbitol

      • diabetic foods

      • with sucrose to stop crystallisation of sucrose

        • eg in toothpastes, cosmetic creams



  • Condensation of sugar phosphates and sugar nucleotides

  • Polyuridines (acid sugars) occur in polymers

  • Building blocks:


    • D-glucose, D-mannose, D-fructose, D-galactose


    • D-xylose, L-arabinose

      Modified sugars:

    • D-glucosamine, D-glucuronic acid, D-galacturonic acid. D-mannuronic acid, L-fructose, L-rhamnose

Carbohydrates 1181797

  • Starch: essentially a storage form of sugars [α 1-4 links]

  • Cellulose: building material of the plant [β 1-4 links]

  • glycosidic bonds initiated at the C1 anomeric centre:

  • sugars and polysaccharides normally an orderly arrangement of two components

  • not all are straight chain polymers



Amylose – mol wt 103–104

Amylopectin – mol wt 107

  • formed in leaves

  • can be reconverted to translocating form (“transitional starch”) to go to other parts of the plant

Carbohydrates 1181797


  • found mainly in seeds, fruit, tubers

  • exception is the stem of the sago palm

  • good commercial sources

    • potato, maize, wheat, rice, oat, barley

    • tapioca or cassava in tropics

    • arrowroot, banana, buckwheat, sago palm stem

  • Amylose

    • unstable – H-bonding between molecules hydrolyses in dilute solution

    • easily precipitated – can never get it back

  • Amylopectin

    • major constituent of starch

    • forms very viscous solutions

    • stable in water, good in pastes

    • use of amylose or amylopectin depends on requirements

    • if want greater % amylose choose certain hybrids

  • Carbohydrates 1181797

    Evans WC. Trease & Evans’ Pharmacognosy. 14th Edition. London: WB Saunders, 1996

    Starch hydrolysis

    Starch hydrolysis

    i) phosphorylase

    • found in plants

    • hydrolyses amylose -> glucose-I-phosphase

    • which attacks outer chains of amylopectin

    • can’t reach or breakdown α1,6 links in molecule

      ii) amylase

    • hydrolyses straight chains links but not α1,6

    • amylose -> glucose + maltose + multitriose molecules

    • can work on β-amylose

      iii) α-glucosidases

    • α1,4 links hydrolysed not α1,6

    • commerical fungal enzymes needed to hydrolyse α1,6 linkages

    Commercial preparation of starch

    Commercial preparation of starch

    • Sources: maize, rice, potato

      MAIZE (Zea mays)

      • starch is found in the endosperm

      • embryos also useful

    Pericarp testa

    Embryo (germ)

    Endosperm (grain)

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • soak in water + 0.2% sulphurous acid (SO2) at 50oC for 2 days to remove pericarp (testa)

    • roll to split, partially crush and separate embryo + endosperm

      • embryo contains oil so floats and is skimmed off

    • wash endosperm with water

    • liquor passed over series of shaking-sieves, concentrated by sedimentation and deposited over tables with troughs ‘tabling’

      • each repetition reduces protein level

    • [Nowadays: repeated centrifugation used to collect starch sediment]

    • undergoes drying process


      • pressed to yield maize oil

        • contains vitamin E

        • germ seed cake fed to cattle

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    RICE (Oryza sativa)

    • grains softened by soaking in 0.5% caustic soda (NaOH)

      • loosens and partially dissolves glutinous matter holding starch granules together

    • ground in stone mill -> milky fluid (starch suspension)

    • diluted and allowed to settle in vats ie concentrated by sedimentation

    • drained over cloth lined boxes

    • (or centrifuged to remove starch)

    • undergoes drying process

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    POTATO (Solanum tuberosum)

    • contain 16-25% starch

      • easier to separate it than via cereals

    • skin removed

      • contains enzymes that discolour starch

    • ‘rasped’ to a pulp in teeth-lined drums

      • tears open most cells

    • starch separated by shaking-sieves, residue ground between millstones, repeat

    • liquid centrifuged

    • concentrated starch mixed with water and further purified by sedimentation in vats

    • dried to reduce <20% moisture

    Carbohydrates 1181797


    [1] Starch - absorbent properties

    • dusting powder

    • ointments (“mucilage of starch”)

    • disintegrating agent in tableting

      [2] Other starch products

    • starch doesn’t dissolve in cold water

    • isn’t readily adsorbed

    • hence it is slightly altered

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    i) Formalised starch

    • treated with formaldehyde

    • removes swelling properties in water

    • can be adsorbed by body - used in surgeons gloves (can be sterilised)

    • Uses - lubricant properties – many uses in food industry (gels, pastes)

      ii) Soluble starch

    • (a) from potato

      • mixed with ethanol and acid at 10mmHg

      • neutralised with NaCO3

      • washed with ethanol

      • grains still look same

      • in cool water get an opaque solution

    • (b) from maize

      • same treatment

      • or put through rollers to get same effect

      • or use chlorination process to get a gel form

    • Used in tableting as soluble

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [3] Commercial dextrins and dextrans

    a) Dextrins

    • prepared by acid and heat -> white dextrin

    • or just heat (roasting starch) -> yellow dextrin

    • white has less adhesive properties

      • smaller molecule since partly broken down by acid

    • Main use:

      • adhesive dressings

      • food products (binding – pastes, thickeners)

        b) Dextrans

    • not starch

    • polymer of 1,6 links of glucose units

    • formed by many microorganisms

    • commercially used Leuconostic mesenteroides converts sucrose -> α 1,6 glucose dextrans

    • Used

      • as blood plasma expanders (severe haemorrhage, bad burns)

        • separated by molecular weight

        • low molecular weight dextran used if faster excretion required

      • as adhesives and cosmetic powders (stick to moist skin)

    Carbohydrates 1181797


    • fructose polymer

    • stored in some plants as an alternative food reserve to starch

      • chicory (Cichorium intybus)

      • dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

    • mammalian enzymes can’t break it down

    • readily excreted in urine

    • Used

      • to determine GFR (glomerular filtration rate)

      • sweetening agent



    Cell walls:

    • cellulose + pectin hemicellulose + derived sugar molecules (+ lignin -> 2y thickening)

    • pectin most useful

    Proposed model of a primary plant cell wall

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • Cellulose = straight chain glucose polymer

      • has β 1,4 links (1,4-β-D-glucopyranosyl units) but cannot form a helix

      • > different properties with strength

        • used as building block rather than energy store

      • large part of molecule cellulose

      • fibres parallel held by H-bonds and Van der Waals forces

      • some parts of molecule are crystalised

        • amorphous regions of molecule hydrolysed more easily

    Commercial preparation

    Commercial preparation

    Source: cotton

    • 98% cellulose

    • remove impurities, pectin proteins

      • de-wax with solvents

      • boiled in O2 free alkali to get pure cellulose

    • microorganisms or strong acid +heat needed to break down cellulose

      • cellulose -> cellobiose (dimer) -> glucose





    Carbohydrates 1181797


    • Dressings

      • good absorption

      • won’t dissolve in most solvents

      • some swelling with moisture

      • dissolved with freshly prepared CuOxam

    • Filtration and chromatological medium

    • Tableting

      • partially hydrolyse microfibrils to get certain properties

      • or use a little or in combination

      • makes tablets hard but can be used in tablet coating

    Cellulose derivatives

    Cellulose derivatives

    • -OH groups replaced

    • Cellulose acetate

      • acetate replaces approx 2.3-3 –OH groups per molecule

      • 25% cellulose acetate: 75% cellulose phthalate combination used for tablet coatings

  • Methylcellulose

    • product produces viscous suspensions

    • good emulsifier

      • Vegetable and mineral oils, barrier creams, bulk laxatives, tablet binder

  • Carbohydrates 1181797

    • Hydroxycellulose

    • Carboxycellulose

      • used as thickeners and stabilisers for p’ceutical and dairy products (viscous solutions)

      • also creams and tablet coatings sometimes

  • Oxidised cellulose

    • 20% -OH groups converted using HNO2 acid

    • haemostatic properties

      • gauze linen dressings, in lint

  • Cellulose nitrate

    • nitration of polymer - guncotton

    • collodion (solution produced by dissolving in ether or organic solvents) used as skin coatings over abrasions (wound dressing, topical med. carrier)

  • Pectin


    • Mol wt 104-105

      • hydroxy groups oxidized then methylated

      • from galactose

      • methylation not always complete

    • Useful high mol wt polymer:

      • tends to coagulate with Cu and Al ions in aqueous -> viscous solutions, gels

      • diarrhoea preparations eg kaopectate

      • haemostatic – substitute for plasma therapy in shock

    • Source: best from fruit eg apple, pear

    Carbohydrates 1181797


    • Mixtures of following give different physical properties:

      • galactose, mannose, xylose, arabinose, rhamnose, fucose (an aldose/hexose deoxy sugar C6H12O5)

    • 3 types:

      • exudate gums

      • seed gums

      • seaweed gums

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [A] Exudate gums

    [1] Acacia

    • From: Acacia senegal (Leguminosae)

    • grows in Sudan, Central and West Africa

    • trees grow in semi-arid conditions

    • produce gummy exudate to repair damage

      • by animal, insect or man

    • when 6 years old

    • tapped to collect acacia gum

    • comes in round balls ‘tiers’

      • sorted by size and colour

      • darker if phenol present

      • should be clear or glassy

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • has no odour or taste in aqueous solution

      • 1-6, 1-3 links containing L-arabinose, L-rhamnose and mainly D-galactose + D-glucose (glucuronic acid)

      • galactose 3: arabinose 3: glucuronic acid 1: rhamnose 1

      • soluble in water, makes low viscosity solutions

      • easily digested and absorbed

      • non-toxic

    • Uses:

      • stabiliser in emulsions

      • cough, diarrhoea, throat preparations (demulcent properties)

    • expensive but the best

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [2] Tragacanth

    • From:Astragalusgummifer and other species (Leguminosae)

      • thorny shrub growing at 1000-3000m

      • in Anatolia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, former USSR

      • produced immediately from pith and cortex breakdown in damaged bark

      • stringy, contains starch

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • polymer more acidic than acacia

    • main acid is D-galacturonic acid (43%)

    • Constituents:

      • tragacanthin (acid groups, water-soluble) 1:

      • bassorin (no acid groups, water-insoluble fraction) 2

      • both insoluble in alcohol

    • best grades contain least tragacanthin

      • but where it is at a high level found to contain:

      • galacturonic acid (43%), xylose (40%), L-fucose (10%), D-galactose (4%)

    • separated by precipitation less easily than acacia

    • forms a translucent solution since insoluble

    • Uses: suspending agent, thickening agent, tableting

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [3] Sterculia

    • From: Sterculia urens

      • Karaya gum, Indian/Bassora tragacanth

      • India, Pakistan, Africa

    • previously thought an inferior substitute for tragacanth

    • similar but D-galacturonic acid linked to rhamnose

    • contains no starch (stains pink w ruthenium red)

    • Uses:

      • granular grade – bulk laxative

      • powdered grade – lozenges, pastes, denture fixative powders, stoma adhesive

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [B] Seed gums

    [1] Psyllium seed (flea seed)

    • From:

      • Plantago afra, P.indica: French/Spanish psyllium

      • P.ovata: blonde psyllium, ispaghula, Indian plantage seed

      • epidermis of the testa

    • Neutral polymer (mucilage) from the seed coat

      • ground to produce powder

      • not purified

      • D-galacturonic acid + L-arabinose, D-xylose and L-rhamnose

    • Uses:

      • demulcent

      • chronic constipation (ispaghula husk SF 40-90)

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [2] Locust bean, carob gum

    • From: Ceratonia siliqua (Leguminosae)

      • endosperm separated from seeds

      • Cyprus, Egypt, Mediterranean

    • Major units mannose and galactose

      • branches shorter and less branched – gives advantages

      • neutral

    • Uses:

      • as for tragacanth

      • food industry – thickener in place of starch

      • not such a good suspending agent (contains an enzyme)

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [3] Guar gum

    • From: Cyamopsis tetragonobulus

      • ground endosperms

      • Indian leguminous plant

    • Main constituent: galactomannan

    • Uses:

      • food industry – 5-6x thickening power of starch

      • ? oral hypoglycaemic drug – changes in gastric emptying and GI transit time

      • lowers cholesterol levels - ? binding bile salts in gut

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [C] Seaweed gums

    • major components of cell walls

    • can be extracted from

      • red algae - Rhodophyceae

      • brown algae - Phaeophyceae

    • with boiling water

      [1] Alginic acid

      • From: brown seaweed

        • Macrocystis sp., Laminaria sp.

        • grows in colder waters of the world

        • N.Atlantic Ascophyllum nodosum cut with sickles or harvesters, rest storm-cast

        • processed or dried to 12-17% moisture for storage

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • Extraction: Stanford method

      • dried milled weed macerated with dilute Na Carbonate solution and mass diluted with soft water

      • insoluble matter decanted or settled out

      • clear liquor

        • poured into dilute sulphuric acid or dilute Ca Cl2 solution

        • insoluble alginic acid or calcium alginate precipitate out

        • rolled to expel remaining liquid

        • OR ethyl alcohol added to precipitate out sodium alginate

    • D-mannuronic acid + L-guluronic acid (20-40%)

      • in blocks of alternating units and blocks of single units

      • quite highly acidic straight chain polymer (MW 50-200,000)

      • contains trapped ion salts eg Ca2+ in guluronic acid kinks (‘egg box gel’)

    • Uses: -> viscous solutions, no taste or toxicity, many uses!

      • food, dental, rubber, textile, paint, cosmetic, p’ceutical ind’y

        • suspending, thickening, stabilising, gelling with salts etc

      • p’ceutical: barrier creams, ointments, pastes, jellies, tablets, gastro-oesophageal reflux products

      • textile: wound dressings (haemostatic)

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [2] Agar

    • From: red algae

      • Gelidium sp., Gracilaria sp.

    • Extraction: Japanese coast

      • cultivated by placing poles in the sea to form supports

      • poles withdrawn and algae stripped

      • other methods of collection

        • rakes and shovels from small boats, diving

      • taken ashore, dried

        • beaten and shaken to remove sand and shells

        • Bleached by watering and sunlight (removes salt)

      • boiled with acidulated water for several hours

      • mucilaginous decoction filtered through linen while hot

      • jelly forms on cooling, cut into bars and forced through wire to make strips

      • moisture removed by freezing/thawing, drying at 35oC and powdering

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    • Constituents:

      • agarase = α-D-galacturose & 3,6 anhydro-β-L-galactose

      • agaropectin (40%): D-galactose, D-glucuronic acid, L-galactose with sulphate ester groups

      • make a series of polymers

        • at low concentration very viscous stable solutions

        • hence low concentrations used as solid gel

    • Uses:

      • agar plates, chromatography

      • food industry – thickener, emulsifier

    Carbohydrates 1181797

    [3] Irish Moss

    • From: Chrondus crispus, Gigartina stellata

      • red alga – carrageen, Chondrus

    • Similar polymer to agar:

    • Uses:

      • kappa form has stronger gelling properties, emulsifier (for cod-liver oil and other oils), holds solid particles in solution as suspensions

      • binder in toothpastes; many uses in food industry

    Use of polymers

    Use of polymers

    • According to desired properties:

      • linear, neutral

        • occupy large space

        • high degree of hydration

        • where low concentration is required

          • precipitate out at high concentration

      • branched, neutral or acidic

        • can use a larger concentration before they precipitate

        • gels, pastes etc

      • side chains mean shorter molecule

      • for restricted flow solution

        • use cellulose or carob

        • not pectins, carrageen, acacia, tragacanth -> smooth and viscous solutions

      • carrageen holds particles in suspension

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