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What are Disaccharides?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 21, 2024
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Disaccharides are carbohydrates that are created when two monosaccharides are joined. The creation of a disaccharide involves the union of two monosaccharides that undergo a process in which a water molecule is removed as part of the union. Like the two monosaccharides that combine to form the single disaccharide, the carbohydrate is sweet to the taste and tends to dissolve in water with relative ease.

The process whereby disaccharides are created is known as dehydration synthesis or condensation reaction. This refers to the extraction of the water molecule during the joining of the two monosaccharides. What is left behind is a dry substance that can be stored with relative ease, and used as an ingredient in the creation of many different types of foods.

Disaccharides belong to one type of several different chemical groupings or combinations of carbohydrates. Other examples include polysaccharides and olgiosaccharides. The classification of a particular combination of carbohydrates tends to depend on the type of molecules used and the number involved in the creation of the group.

One of the best known disaccharides is sucrose. In this particular disaccharide formula, a fructose molecule is joined with a glucose molecule. The result is a sweet substance that can be used in baking and the creation of many different types or processed sweets. Cane sugar is an example of sucrose.

Another popular type of disaccharides is lactose. Also known as milk sugar, this particular disaccharide is created by combining a glucose molecule with a galactose molecule. Unlike some other disaccharides, lactose does cause an allergic reaction in some people, which has led to the creation of more sugar and dairy alternatives that rely on other substances to sweeten the product.

There are even some types of disaccharides that are used because they cause less of a spike in blood sugar. This makes them ideal for people who suffer with type 2 diabetes, as this allows them to enjoy in moderation some foods that they would otherwise have to omit from their diets altogether. Maltose is often used in the creation of soft candies, such as chocolates and fruit-based treats. While glucose molecules are still present, they tend to create less of a spike in blood sugar levels and are usually absorbed into the body easier than the carbohydrates that compose regular table sugar. Still, diabetics are usually advised to limit their consumption of these safer disaccharides, since too many of these alternative treats eaten at the same time can cause some degree of gastronomical distress, including diarrhea.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including All The Science, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By behaviourism — On Oct 13, 2010

@aaaCookie, This true, however, it is always important to make sure you consume both mono and disaccharides, as each has benefits. Eating too much of anything can limit nutrients.

By aaaCookie — On Oct 13, 2010

One of the other differences between monosaccharides and disaccharides is that not only do monosaccharides cause more of a spike in blood sugar, foods with monosaccharides tend to be less nutritious. Often, foods with disaccharides include more fiber, which helps fill your stomach faster and prevents that change in blood sugar.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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