Glyco- refers to glycogen which is sugar in a bigger starch form. Sugars are the building blocks of starches in the way that amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. The amino acids join together in straight chains like a string of beads or like letters in a word, a sentence, or a book. The straight protein chain can then fold into intricate shapes and form many chemicals.
However the sugars can actually connect to each other at each or most of the carbons in their structure – not just in one to one connections like beads on a necklace or letters in a sentence. Instead the sugars can connect at different ways and form many shapes like a Tinker Toy or Kinex building sets or like the words that can be built off of each other’s letters in the game Scrabble or Bananagrams.
Glucose and fructose are molecules that contain 6 carbons each but they are slightly different in shape – like mirror images – and our bodies need the glucose for building materials not the fructose. Fructose is an energy source (in other words it may be fattening if eaten in excess of the physical number of calories that are used up each day). Fructose is less useable as a building block – glucose is the form that is essential for our health. A molecule of table sugar is made from one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose.
Fucose, (6 C), mannose, (6 C), N-acetylglucosamine, (8 C), N-acetylneuraminic acid (11 C) and galactose are also essential types of sugars with slightly different chemical forms. Some can be converted from one to another type but eating food sources may be better insurance (in case there are enzyme defects or other trace mineral deficiencies that may be reducing one’s ability to make enzymes).
The starches can code very complicated chemicals because the branching chain of sugar molecules can link together at more then one place – usually a bond can be formed at each of the carbon molecules in the molecule of sugar. So while there are fewer types of sugars than amino acids, each one can link together in several places and can create a more complex language in their branching shapes than is possible with the one to one connections of amino acids that from proteins.
The glyco-compounds form part of the jelly-like matrix of the glycocalyx layer. Proteins and lipids might be part of a glyco-compound. White blood cells can read and understand this glyco-language on the surfaces of other cells and allergens. Antigens and antibodies may not be effective if the diet doesn’t supply enough of the more unusual essential sugars.
Glyco-compounds dissolve in water better than the proteins or lipids (fats) would on their own. Glycolipids and glycoprotiens are nature’s way to help keep them suspended in water better. The sugar containing end of the compound dissolves in the watery fluid and helps keep the lipid or protein end moving along. The protein or fat by itself might separate from the fluid and stick to vessel walls or clot together into ungainly rafts of debris, which could lead to strokes or cardiovascular disease.
A life preserver keeps us suspended above water. The air trapped in the life preserver is keeping us mixed in the air environment and above the water while the body tries to sink. The floating masses of garbage in the oceans are suspended in a similar way.
Picture from: [thegoldenspiral.org/tag/environmental-terrorism/]
/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./
One Reply to “Glyco-compounds – essential sugar building blocks”
I love it when individuals come together and share ideas. Great blog, continue the good work!
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