As nutritionists and scientists continue to research the ways that carbohydrates can benefit our health, it is important to understand the various types of oligosaccharides that are part of a healthy diet. Among these molecules, disaccharides are the most common by far.

As the name implies, a disaccharide is composed of two monosaccharide units. These two single sugars are either similar or dissimilar and are held together by a glycosidic bond.

These molecules are crystalline, water-soluble, and sweet to taste. Disaccharides provide a variety of benefits to our bodies and often act as a source of energy in the form of carbohydrates.



A common type of carbohydrate is the disaccharide. There are two distinct types of disaccharides, each composed of different components and having a unique configuration. Knowing the differences between these two types can be extremely beneficial for those who need to understand them for medical or dietary purposes.

  • Reducing disaccharides contain a free aldehyde or keto group which determines the properties of carbohydrates. Examples of reducing disaccharides include maltose and lactose.
  • Nonreducing disaccharides lack a free aldehyde or keto group, such as sucrose and trehalose.

    examples of disaccharides

  • Maltose
  • Sucrose
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose


    Maltose, also known as malt sugar, is a key component in many different types of food and drink. It is a disaccharide composed of two -D-glucose units held together by a (1-4) glycosidic bond.

    It has a wide range of uses in the food industry due to its unique sweetness and baking characteristics. Though maltose appears to be relatively simple, it can be broken down into two molecules of -D-glucose through hydrolysis with either diluted acid or the enzyme maltase.

    Isomaltose is a type of sugar created by joining two glucose units together with what is known as a (1-6) glycosidic linkage. This particular type of bond between the two molecules gives it unique chemical and physical properties.

    Cellobiose is an interesting and important disaccharide, a type of simple carbohydrate composed of two monosaccharides. It has the same structure as maltose but differs in its β(1-4) glycosidic linkage. Its formation occurs naturally during the hydrolysis of cellulose, making it an essential component.



    Sucrose, commonly known as cane sugar or table sugar, is a crystalline form of carbohydrate that plays a major role in the global food industry. As it’s found in almost all processed foods, sucrose is a staple of the average diet. It is made up of two simple sugars: glucose and fructose.

    The connection between glucose and fructose is held together by a glycosidic bond – an energy-rich chemical link between the first carbon atom on glucose (C1) and the second on fructose (C2).

    The reducing groups of glucose and fructose play a major role in the formation of this bond, however, since sucrose does not contain any reducing groups it cannot form osazones.

    Sucrose has a sweeter taste than other common sugars like glucose, lactose, and maltose. It’s also used as a sweetening agent in many everyday products.

    Sucrose is one of the main dietary sugars that can be found in many common foods like fruits and vegetables. When sucrase hydrolyses (breaks down) this sugar, it produces glucose and fructose which are then absorbed by our bodies.

    Inversion of sucrose

    Sucrose has two components: glucose and fructose, and it is dextrorotatory when in its unaltered form. However, the process of hydrolysis can cause this optical rotation to switch from dextrorotatory (+) to levorotatory (-), otherwise known as inversion. This fascinating transformation can be applied to many food products that use sucrose as an ingredient.

    Invert sugar is a hydrolyzed mixture of sucrose, which contains both glucose and fructose.



    Lactose is a sugar that many of us have heard of, but few of us truly understand. It’s more commonly known as milk sugar since it is the disaccharide found in milk, and it’s a unique type of sugar composed of two molecules β-D-galactose and β-D-glucose- held together by a β(1-4) glycosidic bond.

    The anomeric carbon of C1 glucose is a key component in understanding and analyzing the behavior of disaccharide molecules like lactose. Being free, it enables lactose to exhibit reducing properties that are essential for the formation of osazones.

    lactose, is particularly significant for young mammals, as it serves as an important energy source, promoting growth and development. Furthermore, lactose is hydrolyzed by the intestinal enzyme lactase into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose which can then be absorbed across the intestinal wall.



    Lactulose is an interesting and important synthetic disaccharide. It is composed of galactose and fructose molecules, and its unique properties make it a useful tool in many medical contexts. Unlike most sugars, lactulose is neither digested nor absorbed in the intestine.

    Lactulose is a sugar solution that has been used to treat the medical condition known as hepatic encephalopathy (HE). HE is a disorder characterized by elevated plasma ammonium (NH3) levels which can cause severe neurological complications. It is estimated that many people suffer from this condition worldwide.

    Lactulose functions as an effective ammonia-converting agent, converting ammonia (NH3 ) into ammonium ions (NH4) in the lumen before they enter circulation through the bloodstream.


    disaccharides foods

    food examples of disaccharides are:

  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Glucose syrup.
  • Muesli bars.
  • Crumpets.
  • Instant coffee.
  • Sugar Cane
  • Honey.
  • Milk

    disaccharides functions

    Disaccharides are sugar molecules made up of two monosaccharide molecules. This type of sugar, also referred to as double sugar, is an important source of energy for the human body. Disaccharides play an essential role in our diet and health.

    When consumed, disaccharides are broken down into its component sugars, which can then be absorbed by the intestines and used by cells throughout the body as energy. This means that disaccharides provide us with a steady supply of fuel for normal bodily functions such as thinking, digestion and movement.

    In addition to providing us with energy, disaccharides also help maintain healthy blood glucose levels. They do this by breaking down into glucose during digestion and releasing it slowly into the bloodstream over time rather than all at once like some other types of carbohydrates do.


    difference between monosaccharides and disaccharides

    What’s the difference between monosaccharides and disaccharides?

    Monosaccharides are known as simple sugars, meaning they cannot be broken down into smaller molecules. They contain only one molecule of sugar, such as glucose or fructose. These simple sugars are typically found in processed foods.

    Disaccharides, on the other hand, consist of two molecules of sugar, such as sucrose and lactose. Some sources of disaccharides include fruits, grains, and dairy products – all of which have added health benefits along with their carbohydrate content!


    About the Author

    Tommy E. Junkins

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