What Are the Monomers of Carbohydrates?

monomers-carbohydrates Credit: Alden Chadwick/CC-BY 2.0

Carbohydrate monomers are called monosaccharides, which are also known as simple sugars. They are composed of either five or six carbons that have a ring-like structure and form a single sugar. Examples of monomers are glucose, fructose and galactose, which are all simple sugars. There are also disaccharides, which are two simple sugars bonded together, but they are not the main monomers of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are one of main macromolecules of life. In dietary terms, there are "good" carbs and "bad" carbs, which can have adverse effects on your blood flow and development. Carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrates are also called saccharides, or sugars. Some examples of carbohydrates are glucose (grape sugar), sucrose (cane sugar) and lactose, which is found in milk. They are used for the storage of energy and structural components in plants.

The monosaccharides that make up carbohydrates are the simplest sugars in chemistry. Remember that the prefix mono means "one," meaning that most monomers are one sugar chain. Some of these monomers are written in rings, with all of their molecules connected in a circle. This structure is dependent on the individual molecules of the saccharide chain and does not always apply.

A disaccharide is made up of two monosaccharides. One example of a disaccharide is maltose, the sugar made in brewing beer. Maltose is made up of two glucose molecules. Another common disaccharide is table sugar, or sucrose, which is made up of glucose and fructose.

A polysaccharide is made up of several monosaccharides. An example of a polysaccharide is starch. Starch is found in foods such as bread, pasta, crackers and potatoes.

Once a disaccharide or polysaccharide enters the body, it is broken down to its simplest monosaccharide form to be circulated throughout the blood and used as a quick energy source for cells. The more complex the carbohydrate, the longer it takes to break down into blood glucose.