Are the 8 principal sugars in glycoproteins "essential sugars"?

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Solution 1

There are no essential sugars.

In the context of nutrition "essential" usually means "must be obtained from the diet". So for example the amino acid methionine is an essential amino acid (for humans).

Within this definition there are zero essential sugars. A Google search for essential sugars reveals lots of sites like this one. The site lists glucose as the first "essential sugar". In fact we can make glucose from a range of other nutrients including amino acids, lactic acid and glycerol. The second sugar on the list is galactose - we can make that from glucose. And so on...

Solution 2

@AlanBoyd is right that the term 'essential sugar' is not a scientific or biologically defined term and is not true given the meaning of the word essential that is in use in biology.

In alternative health and diet circles, the term 'essential sugars' refers to a set of simple carbohydrates which are hypothesized to be important for good health and nutrition in people.

Even if this were a valid approach in humans its very unlikely to be the same specific sugars and proportions for other animals and living things.

So given all these caveats the reference I found for 'essential sugars' lists these 8: glucose, galactose, fucose, mannose, glucosamine, galactosamine, neuraminic acid, and xylose.

As far as whether this really helps us, I personally don't think this is the key to good health in and of itself. It really oversimplifies all of the biomachinery we have to break down and utilize carbohydrates.

As the diet recommends the eating of vegetables which aren't too green, avoiding fructose, it doesn't seem to hurt. Carbohydrates from food are often the product of breaking down complex carbohydrates. I feel as if watching the glycemic index of your food and avoiding soft drinks and too much fruit juice will get you further in terms of health. Avoiding simple carbohydrates entirely in your diet also has advocates and there is some medical research that backs it up.

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Updated on July 21, 2022

Comments

  • Geremia
    Geremia less than a minute

    Are there "essential sugars"? Some have suggested that the 8 principal sugars found in glycoproteins are "essential sugars":

    1. Galactose
    2. Glucose
    3. Mannose
    4. N-Acetylneuraminic acid
    5. Fucose
    6. N-Acetylgalactosamine
    7. N-Acetylglucosamine
    8. Xylose

    I realize the liver can convert glucose to many different sugars, so by "essential sugar" I mean a sugar that is difficult to obtain from diet or that the liver requires much energy to convert from glucose.

    How difficult is it for the liver to convert glucose to the other sugars listed above?

    • terdon
      terdon over 8 years
      Your main question can be answered by simply copy/pasting it into google. Did you try to research this before posting? I assume you did, so what is it that was unclear to you?
    • shigeta
      shigeta over 8 years
      that wasn't so classy changing the question when we tried to answer your original one. oh well.
    • Geremia
      Geremia over 8 years
      @shigeta: Well, the question was about to be deleted anyways…
  • Chris
    Chris over 8 years
    To put it in hard words: Its pseudoscientific bullsh*t.
  • Chris
    Chris over 8 years
    I don't even see reason to avoid frucose, since the body can make frucose-6-phosphate from glucose-6-phosphate. Frucose, which the cells take up also get phosphorylated, so this doesn't make any difference.
  • shigeta
    shigeta over 8 years
    thanks for mentioning. I take it you mean fructose? That part about not taking in high fructose has some pretty good science behind it. In humans (and rats etc) fructose is only metabolized in the liver so when you have a large ingestion of fructose the local concentration in the liver becomes very high and it manufactures fat as opposed to breaking down to other carbohydrates. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168827808001645
  • Chris
    Chris over 8 years
    Yeah, I mean fructose, damn typos. But it doesn't make too much sense to worry only about one carbohydrate. Nutrition has to be balanced, so if we avoid fructose, but live otherwise unhealthy (meaning too much fat and so on) this will change nothing.
  • shigeta
    shigeta over 8 years
    hey @Chris - that's biochemistry for ya - the devil's in the details :) in general engineered foods are suspect as far as i'm concerned and probably aren't healthy as they are not a product of the environment we evolved from - my soapbox...
  • Chris
    Chris over 8 years
    I am a biochemist :-) And I don't worry too much about food - but I try to avoid a few things.
  • Geremia
    Geremia over 8 years
    By "essential" I mean "difficult to synthesize of not obtained from the diet."
  • Alan Boyd
    Alan Boyd over 8 years
    I think you will have to define "difficult". But really, now that you have edited your question, you are asking for an entire chapter from a biochemistry textbook.