What is Dextrose

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Dextrose is a type of sugar that is commonly added to processed foods and baking products, and it can have a number of effects on the body.

What is Dextrose?

Dextrose is a simple monosaccharide that is formed when starchy foods, such as corn, rice or wheat, are broken down. This process is typically done through enzymatic reactions, with the intention of separating out this versatile sugar. It is one of the lesser-known forms of sugar and is found in a surprisingly large number of foods that you consume each day. In comparison to fructose and sucrose, you don’t hear as much about this natural form of sugar which is available after a relatively low level of processing. [1]

As a more subtle form of sweetness than sucrose, this substance is popular in baked goods with delicate flavors, which is why it appears in so many baking products. Not only does it provide sweetness, but it can also help to stabilize foods and help your favorite desserts cook evenly. This is an added sugar in many processed and packaged foods as well, since it can act as a preservative. For those looking to reduce their sugar intake, dextrose should be considered in the same way as other added sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Dextrose may have some different functions and properties than sucrose and fructose, but it can still have negative effects on the body when consumed in excess. [2]

Glucose powder in a bowl on a pink counter

Glucose powder is a sugar derived from corn. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Foods Containing Dextrose

The following foods are likely sources of dextrose:

  • Pretzels and potato chips
  • Fruit juices
  • Candy
  • Cake mixes
  • Starchy foods
  • Baking products
  • Cookies and cakes
  • Sauces and dressings
  • Cured meats
  • Honey
  • Ice cream
  • Energy drinks
  • Pickles
  • Crackers
  • Sweet cereals

Dextrose Side Effects

As is the case of any sugar, consuming too much dextrose can have a number of negative health effects, including an increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, weak immunity, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding these risks and moderating your intake of dextrose-containing foods accordingly is very important.

Blood Sugar

If your sugar intake is high, your risk of diabetes is significantly elevated. Keeping a balanced intake of sugars is the best way to avoid this chronic disease.

Weight Gain

As mentioned above, the excess sugar is stored in the body as fat, more specifically, adipose fat, which is often stored as subcutaneous and visceral fat. It can be difficult to shed those pounds, and gaining this type of weight is associated with higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress throughout the body. [3]

Immune Strength

Studies have shown that excess sugar intake can cause the cells of the immune system to be temporarily weakened or inhibited, opening yourself up to pathogens and other bacteria.

Neurodegenerative Disease

Diets high in added sugars have been directly linked with a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases as we age, including Alzheimer’s disease. There are a few theories behind this, including that insulin-resistant cells in the brain will die and speed the degeneration process, as well as the fact that diabetes can weaken blood vessel walls, increasing the risk of mini-strokes that can affect cognitive function. [4]

Cardiovascular Issues

Diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as higher blood pressure and chronic inflammation. For people who consume too much sugar, obesity, diabetes, and heart issues often go hand in hand, so if you are already at high risk for heart problems, reducing your dextrose intake is a wise choice. [5]


As you likely know, sugars (in the form of glucose) are the primary energy sources for the body, and dextrose can provide a similar boost of energy, particularly for endurance athletes or as a workout aid. Provided that the sugars you consume are being burned off and used, rather than stored as fat, extra dextrose isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Furthermore, for people with diabetes or managing their blood sugar levels, dextrose can help to raise blood sugar quickly, stabilizing it within a normal range. In clinical settings, dextrose is used intravenously and in tablet form to stabilize patients going into diabetic shock. [6]

Sugar can obviously be dangerous for the body when regularly consumed in large amounts but in some contexts, dextrose and other sugars are also beneficial for health.

Is Dextrose Sugar?

Dextrose is a simple type of sugar, made from corn. It is chemically identical to glucose, which is blood sugar and is also similar to fructose. Dextrose is commonly found in baked goods such as bread, table sugar, and honey. Because it is a simple sugar, doctors often use it as a quick remedy for low blood sugar levels.

Is Dextrose Gluten-free?

Dextrose is a simple sugar and it is gluten-free because of the process it undergoes. It is safe for people having celiac disease and can be included in a gluten-free diet.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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