Dextrose is a simple sugar that is chemically identical to glucose, one of the most common sugars. Generally, dextrose is the result of enzymes breaking down corn. Everything from baking products and corn syrup to IVs and oral medications contain dextrose. Many misconceptions and concerns surround this sugar. While it is generally safe, dextrose does have a few possible side effects.

Where to Find Dextrose

Because dextrose is a simple sugar and the body can convert it into energy very quickly, it is ideal for various medicinal uses. It has a sweetening effect, so many manufacturers use it in foods like cakes, cookies, marshmallows, and creams. Table sugar contains sucrose, which is a fusion of fructose and glucose or dextrose. Additionally, because it occurs naturally in corn, most corn products naturally contain dextrose. Generally, if a product states that it has “natural sweeteners,” it contains some level of dextrose.

corn products dextrose ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images


Nutritional Issues

Dextrose is available in a variety of concentrations for different uses. One of its most common medical applications is treating patients who are otherwise unable to absorb carbohydrates, fats, or amino acids. In these cases, doctors prepare a solution that contains dextrose, fats, and amino acids and deliver it intravenously; this is parenteral nutrition. Dextrose is particularly useful because the body can harness it so quickly.

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If a person is diagnosed with excess potassium in their system, physicians can deliver a 50% dextrose solution and follow that with insulin. When the cells take in sugars, they also take in potassium. This interaction helps lower potassium levels. Insulin helps this process by encouraging the potassium to enter the cells. It also has the bonus effect of alleviating issues should the patient’s blood sugar rise too high due to the dextrose injection.

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Diabetes and Hypoglycemia

Physicians may recommend that individuals with diabetes or hypoglycemia carry dextrose medications with them. Both conditions cause regular episodes of dangerously low blood sugar, and pills with dextrose can quickly boost blood sugar levels before symptoms occur. Typically, these individuals can notice when their blood sugar begins to drop because they will experience weakness, sweating, or confusion.

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Because dextrose is rich in calories and the body can easily break it down, it appears in supplements on its own and in mixtures with other nutrients. Athletes and bodybuilders often use these supplements to quickly increase their weight and gain fast boosts of energy. While dextrose is effective in providing the raw calories necessary for muscle development, it lacks all the other nutrients that help build muscle. Complex sugars and carbohydrates are often more effective.

bodybuilding nutritional supplement Constantinis / Getty Images


Producing Dextrose

While dextrose occurs naturally in many foods, the body can also produce it. Usually, this begins with consuming foods that are rich in starches. Some experts compare eating high-starch foods — such as potatoes, potato products, grain cereals, and white bread — to swallowing several spoonfuls of sugar. Individuals with blood sugar concerns should be wary of eating too many of these items.

potato products chips FotoSpeedy / Getty Images


Other Uses for Dextrose

Beyond consumables, manufacturers use dextrose in a variety of other products. One of the most common uses is as a cheap sugar supplement for animal feed. It is also an ingredient in many bath, hair, and skin care products thanks to its sweet scent and skin-conditioning properties. Some companies use dextrose in makeup for similar reasons. Perhaps its most interesting use is in rocket propellant for model and homemade rockets.

skincare product cosmetics Eva-Katalin / Getty Images


Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Many expectant mothers worry about what they put into their bodies because they don’t wish to harm their child. Because of this, some communities believe that dextrose is unhealthy for pregnant or breastfeeding people. However, dextrose is just natural sugar. While it may be dangerous in large amounts, it is difficult to reach those levels exclusively through food. If a pregnant person receives dextrose in a hospital, nurses and doctors will monitor her blood sugar to ensure it does not reach a dangerous level.

pregnant woman hospital sturti / Getty Images


Diabetes Precautions

Despite being relatively safe, dextrose can occasionally produce some side effects. Most notably, people with diabetes should speak with their physicians because the disease can cause the body to absorb dextrose more slowly. Some patients assume their dextrose supplement isn’t working and attempt to take more, which can lead to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, and various other health problems. Some of these issues, such as ketoacidosis, can be life-threatening.

diabetes dextrose injection PeopleImages / Getty Images


Signs of Hyperglycemia

Every individual who consumes dextrose regularly, either for medicinal use or through food, should be aware of the signs of hyperglycemia so they can avoid any dangerous complications. Usually, the earliest symptoms are fluid-related, such as dehydration or frequent urination. Headaches and blurry vision are also common. Other symptoms of high blood sugar include

  • Increasing thirst
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coma, in extreme cases

hyperglycemia side effects fatigue Nicola Katie / Getty Images


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