Our body undergoes several changes every day. Even at this very minute, your body is exerting energy while you read. So, where does our body get the energy to perform our day-to-day functions? From a balanced diet. The food we consume provides a constant source of essential nutrients such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients as they are the body’s primary energy source. Most commonly occurring carbohydrates in nature include potatoes, legumes, vegetables, and sugar. Sucrose, glucose, and fructose are the most common carbohydrates. Out of all three, fructose has the sweetest taste. Let us try to understand fructose and understand the several properties of the monosaccharide along with its applications.
Fructose is defined as a type of sugar that is most often found in plants, flowers, trees, root vegetables, and vines. It is most commonly known as “fruit sugar.” This sweet, odorless, crystalline solid was discovered by a famous french chemist known as Augustin-Pierre Debrunfaut.
Fructose is also a monosaccharide that forms an essential component in table-sugar or, otherwise known as sucrose. It contains the chemical formula and contains a cyclic structure. Due to stereoisomerism, you can also find fructose existing in different forms, such as α-D-fructopyranose and β-D-fructopyranose (they are isomers of fructose).
Even though fructose is a naturally occurring sugar, it can be an added sugar when utilized in packaged or processed foods, even beverages that contain high concentrations of fructose, i.e., sugars. Therefore, it has to be noted that high concentrations or levels of fructose in the food we consume can potentially negatively affect our health. Therefore, there is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily. However, it is advisable to reduce the consumption of fructose to as little as possible.
Fructose is often formed with the help of sugars such as sucrose, glucose, etc. Commercially fructose is formed by:
1. Extraction from corn, sucrose in a crystalline form.
2. Using glucose
However, in labs, fructose is formed with the help of the following chemical reaction:-
This chemical reaction, as shown in the above-given diagram, is known as hydrolysis of sucrose. This reaction is carried out in laboratories in the presence of an environment that contains dilute sulfuric acid or invertase.
As shown in the above figure, we can see that glucose is also formed as a product. Hence, separating our fructose after the chemical reaction takes place is to crystallize glucose with the help of alcohol. Due to the solubility property of glucose in alcohol, it gets separated from glucose by forming crystals.
Specific properties of fructose can be listed as follows:-
1. Fructose is a type of carbohydrate, i.e., monosaccharide, that has a molar mass of 180.156 g.mol-1, melting point 103℃, ability to absorb moisture and solubility in water.
2. It is also naturally sweet and considered to be an odorless, crystalline, sticky sugar.
3. Due to its natural property, fructose is used in food industries as a sweetening agent. This sweetness ability depends on the room temperature; It increases or decreases correspondingly to the room temperature.
4. Fructose can be fermented using bacteria such as yeast anaerobically. This chemical reaction converts the monosaccharide to carbon dioxide and ethanol.
5. Fructose is also used in several chemical reactions, such as the Maillard Reaction, etc. For example: In the Maillard Reaction, fructose is used with amino acids over components such as glucose. This reaction increases its rate quickly as the components are present in an open-chain form.
As we know, fructose is the simplest form of saccharide, similar to glucose and galactose. Due to its specific properties, such as solubility in water, simple to digest, odorless, and ability to absorb moisture efficiently leads to several applications. Some of them are listed as follows:-
1. Fructose is used to form diesel or fuel additives. This is because fructose can be easily converted to hydroxymethylfurfural.
2. As it is commonly found in fruits, sugar cane, sugar beet, and corn syrup, it enhances the taste in several foods. The food industry widely uses fructose for the same purpose, i.e., sweetening agent in various foods.
3. Fructose is also used as a supplement for food for diabetic patients.
4. Other applications of fructose include its usage to form plastics, as an ingredient in various baby formulas, stevia, in manufacturing of cookies, other baked goods, beverages, etc.