Carbohydrates have unique roles to play within living systems and actively control a whole range of biological processes including cell growth and differentiation. The special biological properties of carbohydrates can be partially attributed to the location of the carbohydrates within biological systems-carbohydrates coat the majority of cell-surface and secreted proteins. The oligosaccharide refers to a compound obtained by polymerizing 2-10 glycosidic bonds, which are formed by dehydration condensation of a monosaccharide hydroxy group with a hydroxyl group of another monosaccharide. They are often covalently bound to proteins or lipids, in the form of glycoproteins or glycolipids. The common feature of such oligosaccharides is that they are difficult to be absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Low sweetness, low calories, and basically no increase in blood sugar and blood lipids. The most common oligosaccharides are disaccharides, which are formed by the combination of two monosaccharides via glycosidic bonds. The main types of covalent bonds linking them are N-glycan linkage and O-glycoside. N-linked oligosaccharides are always pentasaccharides attached to asparagine via a beta linkage to the amine nitrogen of the side chain. Alternately, O-linked oligosaccharides are generally attached to threonine or serine on the alcohol group of the side chain.
Types and function of oligosaccharides
There are two main types of oligosaccharides:
- One is oligomeric maltose, which has the characteristics of easy digestion, low sweetness and low permeability. It can prolong the energy supply time, enhance the endurance of the body, and resist fatigue. When the human body has heavy physical exertion and prolonged intense exercise, people are prone to dehydration, consumption of blood sugar, high body temperature, muscle nerve conduction, brain dysfunction and other physiological changes and symptoms. While eating oligosaccharides not only can maintain blood sugar level and the balance of insulin, reduce the production of blood lactic acid, human body test also shows that the use of oligosaccharides can increase the endurance and function more than 30% obviously.
- The other type is the isomalto-oligosaccharide known as the “bifidus factor”. This kind of sugar enters the large intestine as a proliferative factor of bifidobacteria, which can effectively promote the growth and reproduction of beneficial bacteria in the human body, inhibit the growth of spoilage bacteria, and long-term consumption can slow down aging, exhibits laxative, bacteriostatic and anticancer effects, reduce liver burden, improve nutrient absorption rate, especially absorption of calcium, iron and zinc ions, improve lactose digestibility and lipid metabolism in dairy products.
Application of oligosaccharides
Oligosaccharides naturally exist in many foods, as chicory root, onions, wheat, legumes, asparagus, and jicama are rich in oligosaccharides. Examples of some common oligosaccharides are Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO), etc. Oligosaccharides can have following applications:
- Oligosaccharides are difficult or not to be digested and absorbed by the body. Therefore, they provide low or no energy, and can play a role in low-energy foods, maximizing the requirements of those who love sweets and worry about getting fat. Also available for diabetics, obese patients
- Oligosaccharides can inhibit intestinal decay products produced by spoilage bacteria in the human gut (such as Clostridium perfringens and Escherichia coli, etc.). Consumption of 10 grams of soy oligosaccharide powder per day can reduce spoilage products significantly, while also inhibiting beta-glucoside and azoreductase associated with carcinogenic substances in the intestine.
- Oligosaccharide is an indigestible sugar that is not decomposed by gastric acid or gastric enzymes and has a certain degree of sweetness. After ingestion, the human body does not substantially increase blood sugar and blood lipids. Into the intestine, oligosaccharides used in the large intestine by bifidobacteria, and can’t be used by harmful bacteria, is called bifidus factor, which can be widely used in various foods as a functional food ingredient.
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- Bode, L. (2015). The functional biology of human milk oligosaccharides. Early human development, 91(11), 619-622.
- Nguyen, Q. A., Cho, E. J., Lee, D. S., & Bae, H. J. (2018). Development of an advanced integrative process to create valuable biosugars including manno-oligosaccharides and mannose from spent coffee grounds. Bioresource technology.
- Kornfeld, R., & Kornfeld, S. (1985). Assembly of asparagine-linked oligosaccharides. Annual review of biochemistry, 54(1), 631-664.