Where Did the Term Carbohydrate Come From?

donutsHere’s your daily dose of Chemistry related trivia… actually biochemistry trivia today. You hear the term carbohydrate all the time, but where did the term carbohydrate come from?

In organic chemistry there are groups of certain atoms referred to as functional groups. These functional groups are usually attached to at least one carbon atom and help give a molecule it’s name. For example, -PO43- is called a phosphate.  Hence the name of H12N3O4P, a common ingredient in fertilizer, is named ammonium phosphate.

What does all this have to do with carbohydrates? A common base formula for simple sugars is CH2O. Therefore early scientists simple called sugars carbohydrates due to the H2O attached to the carbon atom.


Sciency stuff:  Are sugars just hydrates of carbon? No. In order for a compound to be classified as a sugar, or carbohydrate, it must have at least two hydroxyl (-OH) groups and either an aldehyde or a ketone group.  The sugars with an aldehyde group are called aldose and the sugars with a ketone group are called ketose.

Alternative Keywords: Where did carbohydrates get their name?

[Photo Credit] tedeytan

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