What Is Dextrose?

By Jamie Yacoub

Dextrose is a simple sugar, or monosaccharide, that often is used interchangeably with the word "glucose." Glucose, or dextrose, is found mainly is honey and fruits and is also the sugar in your blood and the main form of carbohydrate used by your body.

Dextrose and Glucose

Glucose is a carbohydrate with the molecular formula C6H12O6, indicating carbon, hydrogen and oxygen combinations. It has two stereoisomers, which are molecules containing the same molecular formula in different spatial arrangements. The stereoisomers of glucose are called D-glucose and L-glucose. L-glucose cannot be metabolized or broken down by your cells. On the other hand, D-glucose can be metabolized by your body. Dextrose refers to D-glucose.

Medical Matters

The word "dextrose" is commonly used in the medical field, where it refers to either intravenous fluid solution or dextrose by mouth. Dextrose IV solution is dextrose with water and is given in clinical settings or at home to supply the patient with extra fluid and calories from sugar. It is also used to treat hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. You may also take dextrose by mouth to treat low blood sugar if you have diabetes or in other conditions that may result in low blood sugar. Oral dextrose comes in chewable tablets as well as in liquid form. Speak to your doctor about if and when you should take dextrose.

A Food Industry Favorite

According to the Sugar Association, the word "dextrose" is also used in the food industry to identify commercially produced crystalline glucose sugar from starch. Dextrose is found in snack foods such as pretzels and crackers, desserts such as cakes and puddings and baking products such as cake mixes and frostings. Dextrose is also added to some single-serve artificial sweetener packets as a filler. You can identify dextrose in packaged foods by reading the ingredients. Dextrose can be described using a variety of different terms, including "dextrose anhydrous," "dextrose monohydrate," "wheat sugar," "rice sugar," "corn sugar" or simply "dextrose."

Natural Is Necessary

Although you do need some dextrose in your blood to maintain normal body functions, eating too much sugar of any kind can lead to weight gain, tooth decay and chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Try to limit or avoid foods with added sugars such as candy, cakes and soda. Save these foods for special occasions, or eat a food with naturally occurring sugar. Fruit, for example, contains natural dextrose.

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