In 1888 one of the world's most important chemists, Emil Fischer, discovered the three sugars, glucose, fructose and mannose. Fischer also confirmed the van't Hoff theory, namely the theory of the asymmetric carbon atom. Our understanding of sugar chemistry increased further when the 1937 Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to the sugar chemist Walter Haworth of Birmingham University for his important work on carbohydrates. Respiration is the controlled oxidation of glucose that takes place in living cells and releases energy. The above equation is a gross simplification of Glycolysis, a complex metabolic pathway involving oxidation of glucose. The reason glucose dissolves readily in water is because it has lots of polar hydroxyl groups which can hydrogen-bond with water molecules.


Diabetics cannot regulate their blood sugar levels because of failure of their pancreas to produce sufficient insulin.
Table sugar is not glucose, but the disaccharide sucrose, formed from the condensation of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. Sucrose is extracted from several plant sources, the most important being sugarcane and sugar beets. It is relatively straightforward to take away the water from glucose by dehydrating it with concentrated sulphuric acid in a fume cupboard. The elemental carbon that is released as the water is ripped from the glucose molecule forms a graphite 'foam', which rises out of the container like a charmed snake (see picture, below).
Starch and glycogen are polymers of glucose where α-glucose monomers are joined together.


Glycogen performs the same job for animals, storing glucose as a stable polymer molecule which can be split apart when the animal needs a rapid source of glucose for energy. Another glucose polymer, cellulose, is the structural material of plant cell walls formed when β-glucose monomers join together.



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