Chapter 3

Current Knowledge and Future Perspectives of Oligosaccharides Research

Henrique S. Arruda, Gustavo A. Pereira, Martha E. F. Almeida, Iramaia A. Neri-Numa, Renata A. S. Sancho, Gustavo Molina and Glaucia M. Pastore

Abstract

Oligosaccharides are low molecular weight carbohydrates with a degree of polymerisation ranging from 3 to 10 sugar residues. These compounds have attracted an increasing attention because of their functional effects on human health, as well as their physicochemical properties, which are of interest for various applications in food technology. The functionality of oligosaccharide depends on its chemical structure, which relies on the nature of the building sugar residues, the linkage type, and the degree of polymerisation. Oligosaccharides can be found naturally in foods (from plants and animals) or are produced by the synthesis from disaccharide substrates or by the hydrolysis of polysaccharides (physical, chemical and/or biotechnological process). Certain oligosaccharides present important beneficial properties for consumers, including anti-carcinogenic effect, low caloric value and prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are selectively fermented ingredients that allow specific changes in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, which provides health benefits and well-being to the consumer. In the food industries, the oligosaccharides have been applied as dietary fiber, sweetener, and weight control agent, and as a humectant in confectioneries, bakeries and breweries. Thus, oligosaccharides are natural compounds that have been widely studied and used in science and industry. This chapter reviews (i) the chemical structure, (ii) emerging trends in production, (iii) applications in science and technology, as well as (iv) the beneficial health of oligosaccharides. In general, this chapter is useful for teachers, students and researchers seeking to understand the chemistry and the future research of oligosaccharides

Total Pages: 91-175 (85)

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