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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dextrin and Oligosaccharide

Dextrins are a famile of polysaccharides which are obtained as an intermediate byproduct of the breakdown of starches. Many people treat dextrins like starches, since they behave in much the same way. Dextrins are used in a wide variety of industries, and they commonly appear as a food additive in a wide range of products, which can be problematic for some people, as they may contain traces of allergens like wheat or corn.
To make dextrins, a starch such as corn, sweet potatoes, tapioca, or corn is subjected to ahydrolysis process, which breaks down the long molecular chains in the starch. The resulting material is a dextrin, a simple carbohydrate with a low molecular weight which has properties which vary, depending on its precise chemical composition. Typically dextrins are dried so that they are easier to handle and ship; being water soluble, it is very easy to turn dextrins back into a wet solution.
The primary property of interest shared by dextrins is their potential as thickening and binding agents. Dextrins can be used to create glue, which explains why you may have heard about “wheat glue,” and they can also be added to foods to help them stick together. Dextrins may be included in some pharmaceutical preparations as well, helping to hold together the constituents of a pill. They are also used in research chemistry, and they pop up in some random places, like the field of pyrotechnics.
Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates characterized by the simple sugars contained within each. This type of saccharide polymer is located in the amino acid side chains frequently found within vegetables ranging from onions to artichokes and jicama. Oligosaccharides are characterized by their sweet taste and unique mouth feel. These polymers are a source of controversy in the nutritional community because they contain both good and bad reactions within the human digestive system.
Oligosaccharides get their name from the Greek "oligos," which means "a few" and the Latin "sacchar," meaning "sugar". This type of saccharide polymer contains between three and ten simple sugars, also referred to as component sugars. These carbohydrates are an important part of plasma membranes and play a role in the cell-cell recognition within.
Animal plasma membranes are popular places for Oligosaccharides, but this carbohydrate type is most frequently found within plants. Some of the most common plants that house large amounts of Oligosaccharide are Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, wheat, legumes, asparagus and jicama. The Oligosaccharide is found in a vast array of other plants, but generally in smaller, negligible amounts. Strangely, the food production industry has begun using these carbohydrates as a synthetically added substitute for sugar in many products.

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