Carbohydrate chemistry is a subdiscipline of chemistry primarily concerned with the synthesis, structure, and function of carbohydrates. Due to the general structure of carbohydrates, their synthesis is often preoccupied with the selective formation of glycosidic linkages and the selective reaction of hydroxyl groups; as a result, it relies heavily on the use of protecting groups.
Individual saccharide residues are termed monosaccharides.
A reducing sugar is any sugar that either has an aldehyde group or is capable of forming one in solution through isomerism. The aldehyde functional group allows the sugar to act as a reducing agent, for example in the Tollens' test or Benedict's test, or the Maillard reaction, important in the browning of many foods. The cyclic hemiacetal forms of aldoses can open to reveal an aldehyde and certain ketoses can undergo tautomerization to become aldoses. However, acetals, including those found polysaccharide linkages, cannot easily become a free aldehyde.
A sugar is classified as a reducing sugar only if it has an open-chain form with an aldehyde group or a free hemiacetal group. Monosaccharides which contain an aldehyde group are known as aldoses, and those with a ketone group are known as ketoses. The aldehyde can be oxidized via a redox reaction in which another compound is reduced. Thus, a reducing sugar is one that reduces certain chemicals. Sugars with ketone groups in their open chain form are capable of isomerizing via a series of tautomeric shifts to produce an aldehyde group in solution. Therefore, ketone-bearing sugars like fructose are considered reducing sugars but it is the isomer containing an aldehyde group which is reducing since ketones cannot be oxidized without decomposition of the sugar. This type of isomerization is catalyzed by the base present in solutions which test for the presence of aldehydes. Aldoses or aldehyde- bearing sugars are also because during oxidation of aldoses, there are certain oxidizing agents that are reduced.