Carbohydrates metabolism refers to different biochemical processes that are responsible for formation, breakdown as well as inter-conversion of the carbohydrates in the bodies of living organisms. Glucose is the major or most important carbohydrate. It is a monosaccharide or simple sugar that almost every known organism metabolizes. Different carbohydrates such as glucose form part of the metabolic pathways in different species.
Synthesis of carbohydrates by plants uses water and carbon dioxide in a process known as photosynthesis. The energy absorbed in the process is stored internally usually in form of lipids and starch. Fungi and animals consumer the plants components and they are used during respiration as fuels.
One gram of carbohydrates produces energy of about 4kcal when oxidized while similar amount of lipid produces 9kcal. Energy that is produced from the metabolism which is glucose oxidation is stored temporarily in the cells in ATP form. Glucose is metabolized by the organisms that use aerobic respiration using oxygen and energy us released with water and carbon dioxide as byproducts.
Carbohydrates are divided into simple and complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that have double or single sugar units, the disaccharides and monosaccharide respectively are simple carbohydrates. An example of simple carbohydrate is table sugar or sucrose. Complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates that have three or even more units of sugar that are linked in a chain.
Most of them have hundreds and thousands of units of sugars. Enzymes digest complex carbohydrates releasing simple sugars. An example of complex carbohydrate is starch which is glucose units’ polymer that produces glucose when broken down. Cellulose is also a glucose polymer but most organisms cannot digest it.
There are bacteria that metabolize or digest cellulose by producing enzymes found in the guts of certain mammals including cows. When cows eat the plants with cellulose, this carbohydrate is then broken down by bacteria.
Due to the fact that carbohydrate metabolism is easier or simpler than metabolism of amino acids or fats; they are superior short-term fuel in most organisms. Concentration of glucose, which is the main carbohydrate in the blood, is a major control of insulin, the main metabolic hormone.
Cellulose and starch in some organisms including termites and in some microorganisms including bacteria and protists are disassembled through digestion and then absorbed in form of glucose. There are pathways for enzymatic oxidation of some complex carbohydrates and some simple carbohydrates. Nevertheless, metabolism of all carbohydrates starts with digestion.
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