Synonyms: Carbs, CHO

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology

Clinical Definition

This macronutrient is an organic compound that is made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The structure of the molecules dictates whether it is a monosaccharide (glucose, galactose and fructose), disaccharide (sucrose, lactose and maltose) or polysaccharide (starch and glycogen). 

In Our Own Words

Carbohydrates are nutrients the body needs in relatively large quantities to sustain itself. Other macronutrients include fats and proteins. Carbohydrates may be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, are the basic building blocks of more complex carbohydrates, such as starches and fibers found in vegetables and grains. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Celiac disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
Common Types
  • Complex
  • Simple
Share this article
  • Harvard School of Public Health. “Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way.” Accessed July 2013.
  • American Diabetes Association. “Carbohydrates.” Accessed July 2013.
  • MedlinePlus. “Carbohydrates.” Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Marieb E, Ph.D., and Hoehn K, Ph.D. Human Anatomy & Physiology. Benjamin Cummings 2010; 8th edition; pages 42–43. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. “Carbohydrates” last reviewed Dec. 11, 2012. Accessed July 2013.
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