Carbohydrates are polyhydroxy aldehydes or polyhydroxy ketones, their simple derivatives, or substances that yield such compounds upon hydrolysis. Carbohydrates perform a multiplicity of roles in living systems in addition to serving as one of the main types of nutrient molecules. In addition to understanding the basic chemical nature of carbohydrates and their uses in living organisms, including energy metabolism, it pays to take some time at the beginning with this material to make sure you understand the systems of nomenclature for monosaccharides based on the placement of its carbonyl group, the number of carbon atoms and chiral handedness as well as the nomenclature for describing glycosidic bonds.

WikiPremed Resources

Carbohydrates Images
Image gallery for study with links to larger teaching JPEGs for classroom presentation

Question Drill for Carbohydrates
Conceptual Vocabulary Self-Test

Basic Terms Crossword Puzzle

Basic Puzzle Solution

Learning Goals


Be able to describe the structure of carbohydrates and name the mono- and disaccharides which are prominent in the biochemistry.

Gain familiarity with the basic carbohydrate nomenclature including the D,L system and terms such as 'aldose', 'furanose', or 'anomeric carbon'.

Be able to appropriately apply the terms epimer and animer.

Understand the hemiacetal formation mechanism of the cyclicization of glucose and why unequal amounts of the two anomers of glucopyranose are formed.

Understand how to read Fischer and Haworth projections depicting the stereochemistry of carbohydrate ring structures.

Know which monosaccharides combine to form sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

Distinguish glycogen, amylose, amylopectin, and cellulose.

Understand the structure and purpose of glycoproteins and proteoglycans.

Be able to describe how the basic mechanism of glycosidic bond formation works in the context of hemiacetal to acetal conversion.

Understand the purposes of carbohydrates as fuel, biosynthetic precursors, in cell-cell recognition, and as structural components at the tissue level.

Suggested Assignments

Practice carbohydrate terminology using the question server. Complete the fundamental terms crossword puzzle. Here is the solution to the puzzle.

Read pp. 108-110 in ExamKrackers Chemistry. Perform practice items 65-72 on pp. 116-117 (practice items for carbohydrates, proteins, lipids & nucleic acids).

Read pp. 3-10 in ExamKrackers Biology I. Perform practice items 1-8 on pg. 11 (subject matter for lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids).

Work carefully through the web resources for carbohydrates.

Conceptual Vocabulary for Carbohydrates