Polysaccharides are supplements that contain monosaccharides (or simple sugars), something that some nutritionists and healthcare professionals believe have become deficient in today's over-processed and fast-food laden diets.
Are Monosaccharides Essential nutrients?
Nutrients can be classified into two groups, non-essential and essential. Non-essential nutrients are the types of things our body produces naturally, such as cholesterol, that may be present in our diet and utilized by our bodies, but we don't need to eat them in order to enjoy good health. Essential nutrients, on the other hand, are those that our body needs, but cannot produce on its own. Examples of essential nutrients are certain vitamins, minerals, fatty and amino acids that can be obtained either by a proper diet or via supplementation. There is an ongoing debate as to whether polysaccharides are essential or non-essential?
The Eight Monosaccharides
The body has naturally occurring enzymes that have the ability to convert carbohydrates back to glucose, their simplest form. Polysaccharide proponents suggest that it is not the lack of sugar in our diets that is the overriding problem, but rather the types of sugars we are lacking. There are eight simple sugars, known as saccharides, considered necessary for our bodies to function optimally: fucose, xylose, glucose, N-acetylglucosamine, N-acetylgalactosamine, galactose, mannose, and N-acetylneuraminic acid.
These sugars work with the fats and proteins in our bodies in order to produce a sort of communication device that exists on the outer membrane of every cell allowing cells to recognize and interact with each other. But in order for this device to work as a high functioning part of the entire bodily system, all eight sugars must be present. The proponents of glyconutrient supplementation suggest that the body is only capable of converting glucose into six of the eight sugars on its own. Therefore at least one sugar remains essential: lactose which is needed by the body in order for enzymes to break it down into glucose and galactose.
Scientifically there is a condition, known as leukocyte adhesion deficiency, by where a person is unable to convert a specific sugar due to a lack of specific enzyme, but this is a rare genetic condition. However, it is possible that a person could be lacking one of these key glyconturients simply by a diet deficiency.
Sources of Monosaccharides
So, what are the principal sources of dietary sugars? In a healthy diet, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes and dairy should provide all that is necessary. But do they? The jury is still out. While producers and users claim all sorts of medical benefits to polysaccharide supplementation - anything from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome relief to tumor shrinkage and cancer prevention - the research is not there to back these claims. Does this mean that polysaccharide supplementation should be disregarded - not necessarily? The subject of glycobiology and polysaccharides, more specifically, have been receiving a lot of attention. The best way to find out if supplementation would be beneficial to your own health would be to perhaps give it a try.