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Summary of Carbohydrate

Metabolism Carbohydrate metabolism is the whole of the biochemical processes responsible for the metabolic formation, breakdown, and interconversion of carbohydrates in living organisms.

Carbohydrates are central to many essential metabolic pathways. Plants synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water through photosynthesis, allowing them to store energy absorbed from sunlight internally. When animals and fungi consume plants, they use cellular respiration to break down these stored carbohydrates to make energy available to cells. Both animals and plants temporarily store the released energy in the form of high-energy molecules, such as ATP, for use in various cellular processes.

Humans can consume a variety of carbohydrates, digestion breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple monomers (monosaccharides): glucose, fructose, mannose and galactose. After resorption in the gut, the monosaccharides are transported, through the portal vein, to the liver, where all non-glucose monosaccharides (fructose, galactose) are transformed into glucose as well. Glucose (blood sugar) is distributed to cells in the tissues, where it is broken down via cellular respiration, or stored as glycogen. In cellular (aerobic) respiration, glucose and oxygen are metabolized to release energy, with carbon dioxide and water as end products.

Glycolysis is the process of breaking down a glucose molecule into two pyruvate molecules, while storing energy released during this process as ATP and NADH. Nearly all organisms that break down glucose utilize glycolysis. Glucose regulation and product use are the primary categories in which these pathways differ between organisms. In some tissues and organisms, glycolysis is the sole method of energy production. This pathway is common to both anaerobic and aerobic respiration.

Gluconeogenesis (GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates. It is a ubiquitous process, present in plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms. In vertebrates, gluconeogenesis occurs mainly in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the cortex of the kidneys. It is one of two primary mechanisms – the other being degradation of glycogen (glycogenolysis) – used by humans and many other animals to maintain blood sugar levels, avoiding low levels (hypoglycemia). In ruminants, because dietary carbohydrates tend to be metabolized by rumen organisms, gluconeogenesis occurs regardless of fasting, low-carbohydrate diets, exercise, etc. In many other animals, the process occurs during periods of fasting, starvation, low-carbohydrate diets, or intense exercise.

Glycogenolysis refers to the breakdown of glycogen. In the liver, muscles, and the kidney, this process occurs to provide glucose when necessary. A single glucose molecule is cleaved from a branch of glycogen, and is transformed into glucose-1-phosphate during this process. This molecule can then be converted to glucose-6-phosphate, an intermediate in the glycolysis pathway. Glucose-6-phosphate can then progress through glycolysis. Glycolysis only requires the input of one molecule of ATP when the glucose originates in glycogen. Alternatively, glucose-6-phosphate can be converted back into glucose in the liver and the kidneys, allowing it to raise blood glucose levels if necessary.