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Museo de Vida: Sugar Preservation

Instruction Document
Some methods of preserving food are easy to understand.
For example, its easy to see that freezing your food, or packing it in salt, would make it
inhospitable to the microbes which would otherwise cause it to spoil. You might wonder,
however, about jams, jellies, and preserves, all of which are protected from spoiling by a
high concentration of sugar. Sugar is one of the most basic foods for all life bacteria
and mold like to eat it just as much as we do. How then, can sugar preserve our food?
Sugar works not by poisoning the food-spoiling microbes, but by causing them to
literally die of thirst. This is because sugar attracts water very well; the more sugar there
is in any solution, the more water it tries to draw from its surroundings. This is bad
news for any microbe that happens to be inside a jar of jam. High concentrations of
sugar will suck the microbes vital water right through its cell wall, causing it to
This process is called osmosis, and it can be deadly for bacteria and mold. In order for
osmosis to work, the sugar concentration has to be quite high. If any water falls onto the
surface of your jam, the sugar concentration at that spot might become low enough to
allow mold to grow. Thats why its important to take the back up measure of
refrigerating all jams, jellies, and preserves once youve opened them. Like an oasis in
the desert, condensed water dripping from the jars lid can give a dehydrating microbe
the relief it needs.
Today we will explore the questions: How does sugar prevent microbial spoilage?
You will be given a reading entitled: Glucose. You should read the reading and respond
to the following questions:

What is sugar?
What is the chemical formula for glucose?
What aspects of the glucose molecule contribute to taste?
How was/is sugar used in the medical field?
What is a monosaccharide? Disaccharide? Polysaccharide?

6. Draw a glucose molecule.

7. What is the difference between glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose? What are
they found in? What are their chemical formulas? What do their molecules look
like (you can either draw each one, or describe them in words)?
8. What is an isomer?
9. What does the body use glucose for? What happens to the human body f glucose
levels are off?
10. What other compounds are sweet but are unfit for human consumption? Why?
11. List the artificial sweeteners discussed in the reading. Tell me a bit about each.