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Polysaccharides

Also known as glycan, polysaccharide is a carbohydrate that can be broken up into two or more molecules of mono-saccharides by means of hydrolysis. In fact, polysaccharide is the basic appearance in which majority of the carbohydrates are found naturally. The molecular structure of polysaccharides may be either linear or branched. While the polysaccharides having a linear molecular structure, for instance, cellulose, are usually compacted to develop into an inflexible formation, the branched form of polysaccharide molecules, for instance, gum Arabic, are usually water soluble to form pastes or adhesives.

In other words, polysaccharides may also be defined as polymeric carbohydrate arrangements (one or more carbohydrate compounds formed by polymerization). As the term ‘poly' suggests, they are developed of repeating structural units (mono-saccharides or disaccharides) that are bind mutually by glycosidic (a class of compounds that give up a sugar and an aglycon during hydrolysis) bonds or attachments. Very frequently, polysaccharides are found to be heterogeneous or assorted enclosing trivial alterations of the repeating structural units. Compared to the monosaccharide building blocks, these macro molecules may possess dissimilar properties depending on their structure. Such polysaccharides are often amorphous (shapeless) and also not soluble in water.

Another description of polysaccharide says that it is an arrangement of carbohydrate that creates a lengthy chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen cells. In fact, polysaccharide is a general expression for any sugar molecule having a glycogen bond. In the nourishment process, the body absorbs polysaccharides and utilizes them as a possible source of energy. This macro-molecule or the polysaccharides offer numerous benefits to the body. Carbohydrates supply the body with requisite energy and form the first substance to be burned when one undertakes physical work-outs with a view to lose weight. Therefore, carbohydrates are rightfully referred to as the foremost source of energy for the human body. Deficiency or lack of carbohydrate would make one feel feeble and lightheaded, while enduring low blood sugar. It may be noted that several diet plans that claim to be low-carb are actually holding the wrong nutrient responsible for different health conditions, especially obesity and cardio-vascular problems.

On the contrary, carbohydrates are necessary for us for sustenance as well as to carry out crucial functions of our body. Every human being needs carbohydrates for the development as well as wellbeing of their bodies. In fact, polysaccharides are categorized into two dissimilar forms of complex carbohydrates - storage and structural. Polysaccharides categorized as storage comprise glycogen and starch that are present in various starch rich foods, including rice, corn and potatoes. These foods that store polysaccharides are essential for us as they provide the body with the requisite dietary fiber. On the other hand, the human liver and muscles store glycogen, which is another type of storage polysaccharides that are essential for us to survive and thrive.

Similarly, the structural type of polysaccharides is present in cellulose found in the plants. In fact, humans as well as animals do not consume cellulose as our system is unable to break down this form of polysaccharides and use it as a source of energy to carry out the various bodily functions. It may be noted that polysaccharides or glycan also enclose glucose, mono-saccharides, galactose, ribose, arabinose and xylose.

Besides the two different and complex categories of polysaccharides - storage and structural, polysaccharides also comprise one more variety that is very fascinating and known as bacterial capsule polysaccharides. This particular type of polysaccharides is produced by the human body with a view to protect itself against different viral infections. Bacterial capsule polysaccharides have a crucial role in ensuring our wellbeing since they function as a blockade in the cell walls and the environment around us. This type of polysaccharides is usually found as membranes that envelop different organs of the body. However, currently the medical community is studying the bacterial capsule polysaccharides to find out as well as ascertain the actual role and modus operandi of this particular polysaccharide type in protecting us from different diseases.

It may be noted that several million people across the globe succumb to bacterial infections every year. Therefore, people are hoping that the researches undertaken by the medical community to determine the role of the bacterial capsule polysaccharides would result in the better understanding of this type of polysaccharides and how they may be useful in preventing as well as treating the numerous health conditions caused by bacteria. If the medical community is able to use the bacterial capsule polysaccharides produced by the human body to cure the ailments plaguing mankind, it would also help in saving millions of life every year. In fact, biologists have been busy in closely examining the bacterial capsule polysaccharides and how they are related to various diseases. At the same time, they are also studying the consequences of consuming storage polysaccharides present in starches, such as potatoes, rice and corn, on our system.

In addition to the researches being conducted on bacterial capsule polysaccharides, several teams of scientists are also studying the function of another type of polysaccharides called protein glycosylation to find out the manner in which it may be made use of in tackling infections caused by bacteria. While antibiotics are usually used to treat bacterial contagions, use of antibiotics is not always effective in curing certain bacterial infections. Meanwhile, biologists are optimistic that they would soon be able to determine the manner in which they may be utilized to cure several other diseases that afflict mankind.

Moreover, in recent times, the function of ingesting complex carbohydrates has also come to the foreground, especially the function of the whole grains that are presently being regarded to be vital to any type of health diet. Scientists as well as the medical community all over the world have been attaching great importance to the consumption of whole grains for the wellbeing of any individual. Precisely speaking, consuming whole grains is believed to be among the several ways to keep off certain ailments, for instance, colon cancer. In fact, medical science has been working hard and using all that is at its disposal to ensure that we have longer and healthier lives. The researches undertaken to closely understand the organisms present in our body as well as those found in the foods and nutrients we ingest are all included in the effort of the medical science to make our lives healthier as well as more fruitful and, at the same time, increase the average life span of people.

As aforementioned, polysaccharides offer numerous benefits to our system, including helping us to prevent and treat several ailments. Most importantly, polysaccharides facilitate in improving our mood by augmenting the amount of optimistic and satisfying chemical substances in the brain, thereby, helping to create a happy feeling. Polysaccharides also promote the healthy blood sugar levels that are vital for diabetics. In addition, the other benefits offered by polysaccharides include supporting the cardio-vascular health as well as immunity health of people consuming complex carbohydrates found in foods and nutrients. This action of polysaccharides helps us to ward off several degenerative ailments, such as heart diseases. Most importantly, consumption of polysaccharides also helps to improve the function of the liver. People who ingest sufficient amounts of polysaccharides also find themselves to be more energetic and hardly get exhausted, since polysaccharides provide the body with the vital source of energy that is often used to run the different vital body functions. In addition, when polysaccharides are consumed, they also have a beneficial effect on the intestines. In effect, they not only enhance the health of the intestine, but also facilitate in the lessening of risks of colon cancer as well as inhibiting certain developments by releasing energy at a slower pace to keep the blood sugar levels stable.

It is important to note that any carbohydrate that supplies workable energy also encloses polysaccharides. Therefore, it is not surprising that several varieties of mushrooms as well as goji berries (the commercial name of Wolfberry) are being promoted commercially for the health benefits they provide us. In addition, specific cereals as well as grains, for instance, barley and oats, also enclose polysaccharides and additional nutriments that facilitate in maintaining the blood sugar level steady. These cereals and grains also provide us with several types of vitamins and minerals that are essential for our health in general. Many physicians and dieticians often recommend direct consumption of polysaccharides in the form of foods, as purchasing dietary supplements containing this carbohydrate chain may prove to be hard for the body to digest because they are considered to be alien substances in our body.

On the other hand, foods are seen as natural substances in the body and easily digested providing us with numerous health advantages. In effect, there are a few dietary supplements that contain extracts of the principal elements of acai berries, goji berries and other fruits that enclose polysaccharides or the polymeric carbohydrate chains. Hence, it is advisable that before you start taking any dietary supplement containing polysaccharides, it is essential to undertake a personal research to find out the precise products that not only suit your requirements, but are also genuinely effectual. In addition, you also need to do some research to determine the exact time when you need to consume the real fruits and not just dietary supplements containing polysaccharides.

It is important to note that pectin is a vital polysaccharide and it comprises several fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, oranges, apples, apricot, grapefruits, carrots and cabbage, which encloses the maximum amount of pectin. These polysaccharides or polymeric carbohydrate chains contain soluble fibers that offer numerous health advantages and are especially significant foods for people who have been endeavouring hard to shed some extra flab and lose weight. Consumption of soluble fibers is extremely beneficial for people working to lose weight since these fibers pass very slowly through the digestive system. When such people consume soluble fibers, they have a feeling that they are full for a longer period and do not have the craving for frequent meals. This, in turn, helps to keep the blood sugar as well as cholesterol levels under control. Many people also extract pectin from fruits and vegetables containing them for preparing jams, since it also performs the role of a thickener. Pectin is also used for its therapeutic properties. Medicinally, pectin is used to cure diarrhea, heal wounds as well as alleviate conditions, such as heartburn.

As mentioned before, polysaccharides or the polymeric carbohydrate chains form an excellent source for several health advantages. In effect, polysaccharides are held in high esteem by physicians as well as health conscious people for their unique properties - they provide enduring and sustainable energy, they are soluble and, at the same time, have a low glycemic index (a system that grades foods according to the pace of their carbohydrates conversion into glucose in the body). In addition, polysaccharides posses the ability to provide relief from various health problems and, at the same time, facilitate slowing down specific cancerous growths. These polymeric carbohydrate chains are also helpful in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, while controlling the blood sugar levels. People suffering from diabetes ought to consume polysaccharides or complex carbohydrates rather than eating simple carbohydrates that pass onto the blood stream very soon and result in a hazardous increase in blood sugar levels. The complex sugars or polysaccharides work as useful regulators in the blood sugar as well as the intestines wherein they release nutriments gradually and also depart from the body in a regular manner. As aforementioned, the group of polysaccharides called pectin is present in specific grains as well as several citrus fruits, including oranges. In addition, pectin also has other uses, especially in medicine. It is widely used to cure several common diseases as well as to heal wounds.

In addition to the health benefits provided by polysaccharides that have been discussed so far, below are a few condition-specific uses of these polymeric carbohydrate chains.

  • It is important to note that different types of degenerative diseases can be prevented by consuming polysaccharides. They play a vital role in averting health conditions that deteriorate gradually, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular ailments. In fact, the action of tea is associated with the poly-phenols as well as the polysaccharides contained in tea.
  • In addition, complex carbohydrates or polysaccharides are also capable of functioning as anti-coagulant agents. They also help to lessen the tackiness of platelets making it difficult to amass in the walls of the arteries. Polysaccharides are also effective anti-thrombotic agents (preventing thrombosis) and help to lessen the blood lipids.
  • Consumption of soluble fibers contained in fruits and vegetables enclosing polysaccharides helps to augment the levels of HDL cholesterol (the cholesterol in high-density lipoproteins also known as ‘good cholesterol'), while diminishing the levels of LDL cholesterol (the cholesterol in low-density lipoproteins, also known as ‘bad cholesterol').
  • Polysaccharides present in tea have several positive effects on our health. While they are useful in lowering the blood pressure and augmenting the capacity of the coronary artery, tea polysaccharides also help in lowering the blood sugar levels - an important aspect in treating diabetics. In addition to its potent anti-diabetes attributes, the complex carbohydrates found in tea result in augmented beta cell performance in the pancreas. Additionally, tea polysaccharides have a remarkable anti-radiation effect in our body. They also help the body in getting rid of the harmful free radicals produced by our body itself. There are several other health benefits offered by tea polysaccharides, including their actions as an anti-viral agent as well as augmenting renewal and maintenance of blood.

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