Importance of Carbohydrates: Functions, Structure & Examples - Embibe
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  • Written By Ankita Sahay
  • Last Modified 18-05-2022
  • Written By Ankita Sahay
  • Last Modified 18-05-2022

Importance of Carbohydrates- Definition, Uses & Classification

Importance of Carbohydrates: Fibers, starches, and sugars are essential components of our food, and we must include these components in our diet. These food components are a significant source of carbohydrates or ‘Carbs’ that turn into glucose, which gives energy to our body. Carbohydrates are the biomolecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms- the essential macronutrients in our body.

Carbohydrates are also known as ‘saccharides’ in biochemistry, and it means ‘sugar’.Based on their structures, carbohydrates are divided into monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. We get ample carbohydrates from our diets, such as starch in cereals, bread, potatoes, sugars, lactose from milk, glucose, and fructose from honey, fruits, and vegetables. This article will talk about the biological importance of carbohydrates, the major function of carbohydrates, and more.

Importance of Carbohydrates: What are Carbohydrates?

Importance of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are biomolecules made up of three elements; carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The general empirical formula of carbohydrate is \({\left( {{\rm{C}}{{\rm{H}}_{\rm{2}}}{\rm{O}}} \right)_{\rm{n}}}\). They are the rapid energy source for our body and hence, are one of the essential food nutrients.

Classification of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are classified into monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides based on their structures. Let us discuss them one by one.

1. Monosaccharides – It is a class of carbohydrates having one sugar molecule. They cannot be hydrolysed into simpler sugar molecules. For example, glucose, fructose, and galactose are some monosaccharides. 

Classification of Monosaccharide

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2. Disaccharides – It is a class of carbohydrates that contain two monosaccharide units joined by a glycosidic bond. Examples are sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

Classification of Disaccharide

3. Oligosaccharides – It is a class of carbohydrates that contain a small number of monosaccharide units, such as three to ten units joined by an o-glycosidic bond: example- raffinose.

4. Polysaccharides – As the name depicts, polysaccharides are ‘polymer of saccharides’. We may call them ‘complex carbohydrates. They are long polymeric chains of monosaccharide units joined together by glycosidic linkage: example- starch, cellulose, glycogen, and chitin.

Classification of Polysaccharide

Starch is a polysaccharide that is stored as a form of energy in plants. It consists of two types of polymeric chains known as amylose and amylopectin. Amylose forms a linear structure with \(\alpha 1 – 4\) glycosidic bonds, while amylopectin forms a branched structure with \(\alpha 1 – 4\) and \(\alpha 1 – 6\) glycosidic bonds.

Structure of Starch

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What is the Biological Importance of Carbohydrates

Below we have mentioned the significance of carbohydrates:

  1. Carbohydrates help in metabolism and are the primary source of energy to our body in the form of glucose. 
  2. Plant cells are made up of cellulose which is a disaccharide. The cellulose in plants is also used in manufacturing papers, fabrics, and wood for construction purposes.
  3. One of the essential processes in our biosphere is photosynthesis which regulates oxygen and carbon dioxide gas balance among plants and animals. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to release oxygen to the atmosphere, and glucose is prepared and stored in plants as a form of energy. When animals feed on plants, they also get energy from this stored carbohydrate and hence, we can survive.
  4. Importance of carbohydrates in our diet: carbohydrates are one of our body’s primary sources of calories.
  5. Starch is stored in plants as an energy source that contains thousands of glucose units.
  6. Glycogen, a complex carbohydrate stored in animal cells and under stress and muscular activity, breaks into simple glucose molecules.
  7. The exoskeleton of arthropods is made up of a complex carbohydrate known as chitin.

Uses of Carbohydrates in the Body

Importance of Carbohydrates in our body

Carbohydrates act as fuel for our brain, heart, kidney, and central nervous system. Along with fats and proteins, carbohydrates are a significant source of our nutrition. Our body breaks these carbohydrates from food to glucose and provides us energy.

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When the body has excess carbohydrates, they store them in the form of glycogen, a complex carbohydrate in the liver cells. Though glucose plays a vital role in providing energy to our body, the blood sugar level of our body needs to be maintained to avoid serious health issues like diabetes. The pancreas secretes the hormone insulin that lower blood sugar level and store them as fats in the liver, and muscles.

Main Function of Carbohydrates in Living Organisms

Here we have provided the importance of Carbohydrates in Living Organisms:

  1. Carbohydrates are essential for the survival of living organisms in our ecosystem. They are the primary source of energy for all creatures.
  2. Genetic materials (DNA and RNA) in living organisms are primarily made up of sugar entities such as ribose and deoxyribose. They form a helical structure with a sugar-phosphate-sugar chain as the backbone of the polymer.
  3. The most crucial energy transport molecule in living organisms, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), is also derived from ribose sugar, a carbohydrate.
  4. Green plants assimilate carbon present in carbon dioxide to organic compounds carbohydrates that provide energy to the plants.
  5. Some carbohydrates also promote seed germination and root elongation in the soil.
  6. Some rare sugars are used in the drug industry for manufacturing drugs that control blood sugar levels. 
    a. Some complex oligosaccharides and oligonucleotides also help in the treatment of cancer due to their anti-inflammatory property.
    b. Some nucleoside analogues of rare sugars are used in antiviral drugs to treat HIV and HCV.

Significance of Carbohydrates in Our Diet

Carbohydrates provide energy to our body and are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They provide instant energy in the form of glucose which is the main source of energy for our body and can be stored as well. We should include these carbohydrates in our food in the form of bread, potatoes, fibres, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Importance of Carbohydrates in our body

As nowadays people are very diet conscious, they avoid carbohydrate-containing food which is not good for our health. We should have a balanced diet. To overcome such problems, we should try to take foods which are high in fibre, such as fruits and vegetables. Complex carbohydrates are the ultimate source of energy and also have low calories. Thus we should eat the ‘right type of carbohydrates’ for our good health.

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Major Function of Carbohydrates for Athletes

Importance of Carbohydrates for Athletes

Energy

Carbohydrates are broken into glucose molecules that get stored in the liver and muscles and are used later during physical activity. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our brains and bodies to function properly. Due to the presence of a good amount of carbohydrates in the body, fatigue is delayed, and this improves athletic performance. 

Increase in Muscle Mass

Protein is required in good quantity to gain muscles. When glucose consumption is high in the body, and it is not stored in excess amounts, the body starts the breakdown of proteins to meet its energy demand. If an adequate amount of carbohydrates are available to muscles, protein can help in repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue freely, which maximises muscle gain.

Thus a proper diet including carbohydrates such as grains, wheat, yoghurt, milk, fruits, vegetables, juices, etc., is very important for athletes to maintain their performance as well as their muscle potential. 

Summary

In brief, Carbohydrates are a group of organic substances that are the most abundant biomolecules on the earth, with a wide range of physical and physiological properties and lots of health benefits. The main function of carbohydrates is to provide energy.

However, they also play an essential role in the structure and function of cells, tissues, organs, and metabolism. They are also used in making drugs for treating diseases. Nowadays, synthetic chemicals resembling natural carbohydrates are replaced to meet their demand and avoid diet issues related to calories. Food rich in carbohydrates should be included in our diet, such as bread, fruits, vegetables, etc., that act as fuels for our body.

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FAQs

Q.1: Which is an important carbohydrate in the body?
Ans:
Glucose is an important carbohydrate in the body that provides energy and maintain blood sugar level.

Q.2: What are the 4 main functions of carbohydrates?
Ans:
The four main functions of carbohydrates are to store energy in the body, provide energy for vital functions, regulate blood sugar, and supplement fats and proteins for other uses in the body.

Q.3: What is the importance of carbohydrates in energy consumption?
Ans:
Carbohydrates are the most useful energy source for our bodies. This energy gives potential to our brain, heart, and other vital organs of our body.

Q.4: What is the importance of carbohydrates in living organisms?
Ans:
Carbohydrates are essential for the survival of living organisms in our ecosystem. They are the primary source of energy for all creatures. They help in the formation of genetic materials, cell structures of both plant cells and animal cells. They are produced by green plants and used as energy in the form of ATP.

Q.5: What is the structural importance of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins?
Ans:
The main structural components of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. All of them are made up of these elements. Animals utilise carbohydrates for short-term energy requirements. After they are ultimately used up, lipids and proteins are broken down into simple glucose molecules to be used as an energy source. Due to their similarity in structures, carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins are essential for our body.

Q.6: What is the importance of carbohydrates in nutrition?
Ans:
Carbohydrates play a vital function in nutrition by providing energy to our bodies. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They provide instant energy in the form of glucose which is the primary source of energy and can be stored. We should include these carbohydrates in our food in the form of bread, potatoes, fibres, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

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We hope this article on the Importance of Carbohydrates has helped you. If you have any queries, drop a comment below, and we will get back to you.

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