Tag Archives: glucosamine

To termites, trees are like giant sugar cubes

Sugar cubes contain the disaccharide known as sucrose which is made up of one molecule of the monosaccharide most common in fruit called fructose in addition to one molecule of the monosaccharide called glucose which is essential for energy production within the body and brain.

The cellulose portion of trees is made of long fairly straight chains of glucose with no fructose, so trees and sugar cubes aren’t really alike. The bonds between table sugar and tree fiber are at slightly different angles which means a hungry person or animal would require different enzymes in order to be able to break them down during digestion into smaller molecules and atoms for further use as an energy source.

The straighter angle between the simple sugars of plant fiber allow the linked chains of glucose to line up with each other.  When lined up the fibers then can form layers, which might seem a little like sheets of paper stacked on top of each other in a book, except it would be a round cylinder doughnut shaped book. Cellulose is one type of plant fiber, it and other types of plant fiber are found in the cell walls throughout the plant in the leaves, stems and roots.

Chitin is similar strong chain of the simple sugar N-acetylglucosamine. The simple sugars in chitin and cellulose both have the slightly straighter beta angle than the bonds found in energy storage starches or polysaccharides. Termites [3] and the bacteria found in the stomach of grazing animals are able to digest the stronger beta bonds of cellulose.

Humans and most other animals can’t digest the strong beta bonds of cellulose because a specific enzyme is needed. The termites and bacteria in the stomach of grazing animals can make the enzyme from other chemicals but humans and the grazing animals themselves can’t make it.

Energy rich plant starches have alpha type bonds between the simple sugars. Alpha bonds connect at an angle that might twist into a spiral chain similar to the double helix spiral of DNA.

The angled alpha bonds are also found in branching shapes of storage starches like glycogen or amylose. The sugar molecule at the end of each ‘branch’ is available for rapid digestion. Glycogen is the energy storage polysaccharide of glucose in animals and humans and amylose is the form of glucose storage used in plants. Glycogen is slightly more branched than amylose.

Tree bark and tree sap both contain glucose but the bark contains cellulose and the sap would have amylose or a similar alpha bonded energy storage starch. A shiny insect shell or seashells also are a type of sugar but not glucose. Shells contain N-acetyl-glucosamine in the form of chitin.

Supplements of glucosamine may be helpful for reducing joint pain. Clinical research studies with patients have found 1500 mg/day may be beneficial. [2]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

References:

  1. S.A. Brooks, M. V. Dwek, U. Schumacher, Functional and Molecular Glycobiology, (BIOS Scientific Publishers, Ltd., 2002), Amazon.
  2. “Questions and Answers: NIH Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial Primary Study,” National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [nccam.nih.gov]
  3. Nakashima K, Watanabe H, Saitoh H, Tokuda G, Azuma JI.,”Dual cellulose-digesting system of the wood-feeding termite, Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki.” Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2002 Jul;32(7):777-84. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

The Glycocalyx, Our Jelly Filling

The glycocalyx is a free form matrix made up of a jelly like mixture of starches, fluid, ions and other goo. Gelatin desserts are well known examples of a free form matrix supported by the starch, pectin. The glycocalyx jelly layer may act like glue between cells or like sealant coating the interior and exterior of pipes in plumbing repair. It protects our surfaces around cells and the lining of blood vessels and organs. The stickiness allows cellular interactions to take place more easily between white blood cells and protein receptors found in cell membranes. Imagine trying to build a garden hose out of lettuce leaves and strawberry jam – that is kind of how a blood vessel is made.

A gelatin dessert is

The faster current in blood vessels can flow on while white blood cells can pause and perform tasks safely sticking in the slower goo of the glycocalyx layer. It reminds me of the muddy bottom of river beds where minnows hide and frogs lay eggs. The glycolipids and glycoproteins may be long and branching like sea-weed and algae and the fibrous mixture may be like a net, slowing down and trapping things flowing by in the blood stream or in other vessels like airways and the digestive track.

The inside of a jelly jar.

Our intestines are miles long and wide open to every passing food particle unless our cells are replaced regularly and are well coated with the glycocalyx layer. The digestive track has the shortest lived cells in the body. They are replaced every seven days on average – that is a lot of miles of cells for our white blood cells to patrol in order to identify the decaying ones and provide them a quick death by apoptosis.

Apoptosis is nature’s control over pre-cancerous, decaying cells. Well nourished white blood cells can recognize the old or infected cells, give them a little enzyme blast of death and then engulf the waste material, resulting in no inflammation or discomfort to us. It happens every day. Apoptosis requires the white blood cell to have nutrient building blocks for all the chemical steps in the process, and the white blood cell membrane has to join with the other cell membrane temporarily probably occurring within the glycocalyx layer.

The intestines also need plenty of fiber from our diets to build and rebuild the jelly layer coating its surfaces. Animal foods do not offer any fiber for building this protective layer and a diet high in meat and dairy and refined grains can leave the body more open to allergens and infection. Fiber is found in all plant foods and whole grains. A fiber pill or fortified food is unlikely to meet our need for a variety of different starches. Vine ripened produce has a higher content of some of the essential types of starches then produce that is picked early and forced to ripen with plant hormones. Frozen and canned vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and then processed rapidly. They lose some nutrients in processing but will retain value over time. Fresh produce will retain nutrient value longer when stored as recommended for the variety.

Some natural food sources of healthy types of fiber include: Carrots, apples, pears, pre-ripened peaches and nectarines, berries, cherries, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, peas, green beans, other beans, nuts, seeds, guava, turnips, mushrooms, corn, leeks, dark greens, fenugreek, aloe vera, slippery elm powder, marshmallow root, cinnamon, turmeric, horseradish and ginger. And other whole fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices would also be sources of fiber. It is found in all plant foods.

Glucosamine is one of the super starches. It is important within bone tissue and may help those with arthritis problems. A typical supplement size is a large 1500 mg capsule once a day or three 500 mg tablets. Supplemental glucosamine is usually extracted from shells of crustaceans and can be a risk if there is an allergy to seafood. Glucosamine derived from corn has been developed and hopefully will make it into a variety of foods soon. Glucosamine derived from corn is available as a vegan source of the supplement at Deva Nutrition: [devanutrition.com].

/Disclosure: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

85. [dvd.sagepub.com] Noble, M., Drake-Hollan, A., Hyperglycaemia and the vascular glycocalyx: the key to microalbuminaria and cardiovascular disease in diabetes mellitus? (British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease 2010 10: 66) DOI: 10.1177/1474651409357035

86. [jasn.asnjournals] Singh, A., Satchell, S. C., Neal, C. R., McKenzie E A., Tooke, J E., and Mathieson P. W., Glomerular Endothelial Glycocalyx constitutes a Barrier to Protein Permeability, (J Am Soc Nephrol 18: 2885-2893, 2007.) DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2007010119) Full text

87. [nutritionj.com] Ramberg, J. E., Nelson, E. D., Sinnott, R. A., Immunomodulatory dietary polysaccharides: a systematic review of the literature, (Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:54) DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-9-54

89. [ncbi.nlm.nih.] Reitsma, S.,,et al The Endothelial glycocalyx: composition, functions, and visualization, (Pflugers Arch – Eur J Physiol (2007) 454:345-359) DOI 10.1007/s00424-007-0212-8

90. [ircres.ahajournals] Barakat, A. I., Dragging Along; the Glycocalyx and Vascular Endothelial Cell Mechanotransduction, (Circulation Research. 2008;102:747.748) 2008 American Heart Assoc.