Which Enzyme Digests Simple Carbs?

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While complex carbohydrates known as polysaccharides require enzymes such as salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase and maltase for digestion, simple carbohydrates require very few enzymatic reactions. Find out which enzyme digests simple carbs with help from a national fitness champion in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Delicious Recipes & Dietetics
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Hi, I'm Chrisie Allemand, registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition Coach for Life. Let's discuss which enzymes digest simple carbs. While complex carbohydrates known as polysaccharides require enzymes such as salivary amylase, pancreatic amylase and maltase for digestion, simple carbohydrates require very few enzymatic reactions. Glucose, fructose and galactose are the simplest forms of carbohydrates. They are referred to as monosaccharides. These require either one break down process, or none at all. Chewing bites down food into small molecules that combine with saliva secreted by the salivary glands in the mouth. Along with mucin and buffers, saliva contains the enzyme salivary amylase which acts on the starch in food and breaks it down to maltose. Salivary amylase continues for the short duration that the carbohydrates are in the mouth after which the mixture is partially digested carbohydrates travels down to the esophagus into the stomach. Due to the inhibition of salivary amylase activity by the acidic gastric juices, digestion of carbohydrates does not occur in the stomach. As the combination of gastric juices and partially digested food enters the small intestine, the pancreas secretes pancreatic juices, which contain the enzyme pancreatic amylase. This enzyme acts on the remaining polysaccharides and breaks them into disaccharide units of maltose. In the final step of complex carbohydrate digestion, the enzyme maltase, present in the lining of the small intestine, breaks maltose into two units of glucose. Glucose is then absorbed and enters the bloodstream. Those are the enzymatic reactions responsible for carbohydrate digestion.

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