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What to Know About Dextrose

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 09, 2021

‌Dextrose is a type of sugar that is very similar to blood sugar. Dextrose, which is often used in processed and prepackaged foods, can have certain health benefits but it’s also associated with several potential negative symptoms.

What is Dextrose?

‌Dextrose is a type of sugar that usually comes from corn or wheat. Dextrose is almost identical to glucose, which is the sugar found in the bloodstream. For that reason, it can be quickly used as a source of energy by the human body. Dextrose is often used in foods as an artificial sweetener or a preservative.

‌Dextrose can have health benefits or negative effects on your health. You should be careful about your dextrose consumption if you have certain health conditions.

What Foods Contain Dextrose?

‌‌Dextrose is used in a wide range of products because it has several useful properties and is widely available. Dextrose is often used as a sweetener or preservative, or to neutralize food that is too spicy or salty. Dextrose has a high glycemic index, which means that it increases blood sugar levels quickly and is a good source of energy.

‌Dextrose is often used as a sweetener in baked products because it helps them brown more easily. It’s also used in wine because it improves the fermentation process. Dextrose is also often used to preserve packaged foods and extend their shelf life because it’s not as sweet as other sugars, such as sucrose.

‌Other foods that commonly have dextrose include:‌

  • Sauces‌
  • Seasoning mix‌
  • Chips‌
  • Cured meats‌
  • Canned foods‌
  • Pickles‌
  • Crackers
  • Fruit jams

What are the Benefits of Eating Dextrose?

Dextrose can be beneficial for your health if eaten in moderation. Because dextrose is very similar to glucose, it’s quickly digested and replenishes energy in a short time. That is why bodybuilders often use dextrose supplements after intense exercise. 

Dextrose can also help with fatigue caused by mental exertion. Therefore, eating foods containing dextrose could help you during examinations or other tasks requiring intense focus.

What are the Risks of Eating Dextrose?

‌The risks associated with eating dextrose are the same as those of any sugars. Excessive consumption of dextrose can have several short- and long-term effects. Although your body does need some sugar for energy, consuming too much can increase your risk of several conditions.

Weight gain. The body breaks down dextrose very quickly and will store any sugar that is not required as fat. Eating too much dextrose can lead to a buildup of fat, which can result in obesity‌.

Heart disease. Eating too much dextrose can increase your risk of heart disease. People with a history of heart problems should be careful in their consumption of dextrose and other sugars.

Diabetes. Dextrose may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of its negative effects on the liver and its links to obesity. People with diabetes should avoid eating dextrose because it leads to a rapid increase in blood sugar which can cause several complications.

Kidney disease. Your kidneys filter sugars out of your urine. Eating dextrose causes your blood sugar level to rise. High blood sugar levels over a long period of time put a strain on your kidneys that can cause kidney disease.

Liver disease. Excessive consumption of dextrose and other sugars can cause a fatty buildup that leads to liver disease.

Insulin resistance. Regularly consuming too much dextrose can cause insulin resistance because dextrose increases the release of insulin into the blood. Insulin resistance causes feelings of tiredness and increases the risk of many diseases.

Excess consumption of dextrose can also worsen depression, as well as acne and other skin conditions. It can also cause symptoms such as frequent urination, thirst, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, and stomach pain when eaten in excess.

Who Should be Careful about Eating Foods Containing Dextrose?

Dextrose is a type of sugar and should therefore be consumed in moderation, like all sugars. However, people with the following conditions or symptoms should be particularly careful in limiting their intake of dextrose:

Dextrose in Medicine

‌Dextrose is sometimes prescribed by doctors alone or combined with other drugs. Dextrose is usually administered either intravenously (through a vein) or orally. Doctors use dextrose to treat low blood sugar and dehydration, as well as to provide nutrition.

Doctors may recommend that people with diabetes carry dextrose tablets that dissolve in the mouth. These tablets can be used during episodes of low blood sugar to rapidly return blood sugar to healthy levels. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Allina: “Hypoglycemia: Adult management protocol.”

Baxter Healthcare Corporation: “Dextrose Injection, USP.”

MDPI: “Glycemic Index of Slowly Digestible Carbohydrate Alone and in Powdered Drink-Mix.”

MedicineNet: “Is dextrose bad for your health?”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center “Dextrose.”

Nature, Pediatric Research: “GENERALIZED EDEMA RELATED TO SENSITIVITY TO FOODS.”

Nutrition Laboratory, Massachusetts State College: “Dextrose in the Food Industries and Its Health Status.”

Sugar Association: “Sugar, a fact sheet, a summary of basic information about sugar and its uses.”

The New England Journal of Medicine: “Decrease in serum potassium concentrations and appearance of cardiac arrhythmias during infusion of potassium with glucose in potassium-depleted patients.”

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