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Raffinose (Molecule of the Month for April 2020)

Trisaccharide, Galactose- Glucose-Fructose

Raffinose is a trisaccharide composed of galactose, glucose, and fructose. It can be found in beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, other vegetables, and whole grains. The raffinose family of oligosaccharides (RFOs) are alpha-galactosyl derivatives of sucrose, and the most common are the trisaccharide raffinose, the tetrasaccharide stachyose, and the pentasaccharide verbascose. RFOs are almost ubiquitous in the plant kingdom, being found in a large variety of seeds from many different families, and they rank second only to sucrose in abundance as soluble carbohydrates.

Trisaccharides are oligosaccharides composed of three monosaccharides with two glycosidic bonds connecting them. Similar to the disaccharides, each glycosidic bond can be formed between any hydroxyl group on the component monosaccharides. Even if all three component sugars are the same (e.g., glucose), different bond combinations (regiochemistry) and stereochemistry (alpha- or beta-) result in trisaccharides that are diastereoisomers with different chemical and physical properties.

It is non-digestible in humans and other monogastric animals (pigs and poultry) who do not possess the α-GAL enzyme to break down RFOs. These oligosaccharides pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine. In the large intestine, they are fermented by bacteria that do possess the α-GAL enzyme and make short-chain fatty acids (SCFA)(acetic, propionic, butyric acids), as well as the flatulence commonly associated with eating beans and other vegetables. Raffinose can be hydrolyzed to D-galactose and sucrose by the enzyme α-galactosidase (α-GAL), an enzyme not found in the human digestive tract. α-GAL also hydrolyzes other α-galactosides such as stachyose, verbascose, and galactinol, if present.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Raffinose 3D model

click on the picture of  Raffinose above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Raffinose structure
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Picture of Raffinose

C18 H32 O16

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for April 2020 )

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