Roses are red, violets are blue, monosaccharides are sweet…

Simple Sugars 

Today’s lesson introduced and reviewed many different types of sugars including artificial substitutes, and explained how sugars are broken down and used by the body.  Our discussion was centered on simple sugars.  Simple sugars include glucose and fructose, sucrose and lactose.

Because carbohydrate foods that we eat must be broken down into glucose before they can be used as fuel by our bodies, we spent time discussing glucose. It is important to try to consume foods that supply the brain with a constant supply of glucose rather than glucose spikes (large amounts at one time).  To know what foods supply a constant supply of glucose one can use the glycemic index (G.I.) which is a measure of how fast the food is converted to glucose and released into the blood stream. The lower the G.I., the slower glucose is released and the better the food is to eat.    Students found it interesting to learn about the glycemic index and were surprised at all the dangerous side effects of eating excessive amounts of foods rich in high G.I. substances, including obesity, dental cavities, and type II diabetes.

Our learning activity was to subjectively test the relative sweetness of several natural and artificial sweeteners, including maltitol, sucrose, molasses, maple syrup, honey, saccharin, aspartame, stevia leaf extract and table sugar. We ended the day by setting up an experiment to grow rock candy.

The students really enjoyed this sweet lab!

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Dr. Maureen Griffin

Maureen earned a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 2003. While at Penn, she developed a novel micro-mechanical technique called micropipette peeling to investigate the role of muscle cell adhesion in normal and diseased skeletal muscle cells. After graduating, Maureen worked full time as a post-doctoral researcher and then a staff scientist a SelectX Pharmaceuticals. She joined the teaching staff in 2008 and was excited to be made an executive staff member in 2009. Maureen also continued to consult part time for SelectX until her daughter's birth in 2009; now she is focused on Science from Scientists and, of course, her children. Maureen uses her spare time to read, blog, cook, and renovate her house.

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