Dextrose (glucose)

  • Our verdict: 2 - with reservations, otherwise relatively ok
  • Origin: It is produced from natural sources that are not further chemically treated.

Dextrose, also known as glucose, is a simple sugar (monosaccharide) that is a vital source of energy for the body. It is chemically identical to glucose, a natural sugar present in the bloodstream. Dextrose is commonly derived from corn and is often used in medical treatments as well as in the food and beverage industry. Its chemical formula is C6H12O6, and it is a key player in carbohydrate metabolism, providing a quick source of energy.

Origin

Dextrose has a natural origin, being the most abundant monosaccharide found in nature. It is commonly extracted from starch, particularly corn starch, through a process called hydrolysis, where enzymes or acids break down the starch into simpler sugars. While it can be found naturally in fruits and honey, most commercially available dextrose is produced from corn.

Characteristics

Dextrose is used for several reasons due to its unique characteristics:

  • Energy Source: Provides a quick and easily digestible source of energy.
  • Sweetness: Adds sweetness to foods and beverages without the strong flavour of other sweeteners.
  • Preservative: Helps to preserve food by reducing water activity, which inhibits microbial growth.
  • Humectant: Retains moisture in foods, preventing them from drying out.
  • Fermentation Substrate: Used in the fermentation process for the production of alcohol, bread, and dairy products.

Uses in Ultra‑Processed Foods

Dextrose is extensively used in ultra‑processed foods for various purposes:

  • Sweetening Agent: Dextrose is added to foods to enhance sweetness, contributing to the overall flavour profile without overpowering other flavours. It is less sweet than sucrose (table sugar), allowing manufacturers to control sweetness levels more precisely.
  • Preservative: By lowering the water activity in food products, dextrose helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria, molds, and yeasts, thereby extending shelf life. This is particularly useful in baked goods, snacks, and confectionery products.
  • Texturizer: Dextrose can influence the texture of foods, providing a desired mouthfeel and consistency. It is often used in baked goods to improve texture and volume.
  • Fermentation Aid: In products like bread, yogurt, and beer, dextrose acts as a readily available sugar for fermentation, supporting the growth of yeast and bacteria that are essential for the production process.
  • Colour Development: In baking and cooking, dextrose participates in the Maillard reaction, which contributes to the browning and flavour development of foods like baked goods and roasted meats.

Health Considerations

While dextrose is generally safe for consumption, there are several health considerations to be aware of:

  • Blood Sugar Levels: As a simple sugar, dextrose is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing a quick spike in blood glucose levels. This can be a concern for individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance, as it may lead to hyperglycemia.
  • Hyperglycemia: Dextrose can spike blood sugar too high which can lead to confusion, frequent urination, dehydration, intense thirst, and mood swings. 
  • Weight Gain: Excessive consumption of dextrose, like other sugars, can contribute to weight gain and obesity due to its high‑caloric content and potential to increase overall caloric intake.
  • Dental Health: High intake of dextrose can lead to dental caries (cavities) as it provides a substrate for oral bacteria to produce acid that erodes tooth enamel.
  • Metabolic Syndrome: Regular consumption of high amounts of simple sugars like dextrose has been linked to the development of metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions such as hypertension, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • GMO concerns: The majority of dextrose is made using GMO corn. There are ongoing studies and debates on the safety of GMOs. 
  • Caution With Low Potassium: People should avoid foods and solutions containing dextrose if they have low potassium levels, swelling in extremities, or fluid buildup in lungs (known as pulmonary edema)

References

  1. Drugs.com. (2024). "Dextrose." Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/monograph/dextrose.html
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2024). "Glucose (Dextrose)." PubChem. Retrieved from https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Glucose
  3. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (2024). "The Maillard Reaction: Analysis of the Scientific Aspects." Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf049692h
  4. World Health Organization (WHO). (2024). "Sugars and Dental Caries." Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news‑room/fact‑sheets/detail/sugars‑and‑dental‑caries
  5. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. (2024). "Carbohydrate Metabolism in Health and Disease." Retrieved from https://www.jci.org/articles/view/12388