Carbohydrates have many important functions in the body.
Energy supply The most important function of carbohydrate is to supply energy or fuel for the body. Glucose is readily utilized by the body for energy needed for physical activities and also for the body cells. The brain, nerve tissues, and erythrocytes are dependent on the constant supply of glucose from the blood to meet their energy needs. Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 kcals of energy.
Carbohydrates as reserve fuel Carbohydrate in the form of glycogen is stored in liver and muscle including heart muscle. It is used for muscular exercise especially in emergency.
Protein sparing action If carbohydrate supply in the diet is adequate, protein is spared for its important functions. This effect by carbohydrate is called protein sparing effect. Insufficient intake of carbohydrates forces amino acids to be de-aminated and converted to fatty acids for energy purpose.
Carbohydrate for fat metabolism Carbohydrates are needed for complete and normal metabolism of fats, thus preventing acidosis.
Carbohydrate for non essential amino acid synthesis Carbohydrate provides the carbon skeleton for the synthesis of non essential amino acids in the body.
Carbohydrate for immunity Carbohydrates are an important part of some compounds such as immune polysaccharides which increase resistance of the body to infection.
Carbohydrates in nucleic acids and other compounds Carbohydrates and their derivatives form part of nucleic acid such as DNA and RNA and metabolic compounds such as galactolipids, chondroitin sulphate and galactosides.
Detoxifying function of carbohydrates Carbohydrates have protective and detoxifying action in liver. The liver is protected against bacterial toxins by producing glycuronic acid or acetyl groups from carbohydrates which are excreted through kidneys. For this purpose glycogen is used. Thus carbohydrates play a significant role in removing poisonous substances from the liver.
Lactose as probiotics Carbohydrates, especially lactose help the growth of desirable bacteria in the small intestine and help the synthesis of some B-complex vitamins in the intestinal tract.
Lactose-calcium absorption Lactose also helps in the absorption of calcium.
Carbohydrates in the diet Carbohydrates provide flavour and variety to the diet. Cellulose and other indigestible polysaccharides add bulk to the diet and helps in intestinal motility. Carbohydrates are needed to prevent dehydration.
Benefits of carbohydrate foods In their natural state Carbohydrates foods have many benefits