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Difference Between Glucose and Dextrose

Glucose vs Dextrose

Glucose and dextrose are two of the most often confused terms. Many food labels are marked with either glucose or dextrose. In the hospital setting, the term dextrose is usually used even if the dextrose’s main aim is really to maintain the blood glucose level of the patient. This is most likely because the majority or almost all national and international pharmacopeias use the term ‘dextrose’ to refer to glucose and not use the word ‘glucose’ itself.

With regard to labeling products, some companies label their food ingredient list with the term dextrose rather than glucose because they believe that the latter has a negative connotation. Perhaps, more people believe that glucose is associated with too much calories thereby making one become fat or obese. As a consumer, you must be made aware that marking the food product with the word ‘dextrose’ really means that it’s glucose.

In the realm of pharmaceutical products, they often use the other way around ‘“ glucose instead of dextrose ‘“ just to trim down the confusion. In addition, many medical practitioners nowadays use glucose rather than dextrose for the same goal of finally using the term ‘glucose’ as the standard word for glucose and not ‘dextrose,’ which only adds up to the confusion. Thus, the preference in using either term is purely because of marketing reasons. The careful use of both terms can spell the difference in the product’s marketing success.

The two also have the same chemical formula ‘“ C6H12O6 making them practically the same. This formula means that glucose and dextrose are hexoses ‘“ 6 carbon atoms are linked to 12 hydrogen atoms and further bounded with 6 more oxygen atoms. This is the tricky part since there can be different manners in which the said atoms are bound. The end result is the formation of distinct chemical compounds that have their own respective (unique chemical properties) and behave differently from other compound formations. Glucose is an aldohexose while dextrose is the name given to a glucose monohydrate compound. Aldohexose have compounds known as aldehydes that are placed at the premiere position of the molecule. Aldehydes appear as a carbon atom linked to a hydrogen atom and, at the other side, double linked to another oxygen atom. Therefore, the dextrose and glucose have different atomic arrangement in space and may appear as ‘mirror images’ to one another.

Overall, although both has the same chemical formula and are simple monosaccharides (sugars) glucose and dextrose still differ in the following aspects:

1. Dextrose is a term commonly used in many pharmacopeias, in almost all hospitals and other food products while glucose is used in pharmaceutical products.

2. Glucose, in food product labels, is often given a negative connotation compared to dextrose.

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  1. Lots of words with very little information. Simply put glucose can exist in two forms that are mirror images of each other (stereoisomers). The right-handed form is dextrose and is ubiquitous in nature. The left-handed form is rare. So glucose refers to both forms and dextrose specifically to the right-handed form that all cells metabolise.

  2. Please correct written description of the formula for hexoses: it should be six carbons linked to 12 hydrogens and to 6 oxygens.

  3. Very wrong, Dextrose is not L-Glucose (the mirror image of D-glucose aka glucose), it literally is the same exact thing as glucose. L-glucose does not exist in nature, and is very difficult to synthesize.

  4. I would think that the “glucose monohydrate compound” description would also be significant, at least in some applications. The article makes it appear that the monohydrate is what makes it functionally different in most labeling, although I am sure it is also a d-glucose molecule, since that is how glucose almost always exists naturally, according to what I’ve read so far.

  5. This gave me the best laugh I have had in ages …

    “The two also have the same chemical formula ‘“ C6H12O6 making them practically the same.”


  6. IDK. They may be structurally similiar, but I can tell you that these two ‘identical’ substances seem to have different absorption rates. Dextrose SEEMS to absorb into the bloodstream slower than glucose. I wish there was a comparative study, since I realize my personal experience amounts to a non-scientific anecdote. I learned about this difference of bloodstream absorption the hard way, by almost dying repeatedly until I started looking at ingredients lists and comparing my experiences. I’m a hypoglycemic who uses a product called Glucose Tabs to keep my bloodsugar up. It’s an emergency measure. Some makers of glucose tabs have recently started to use dextrose instead of glucose in their Glucose Tabs as a cost cutting measure. And, unlike the old recipe of glucose tabs that contained glucose as a first ingredient and only took 2 to 5 minutes to be absorbed, the tabs that use dextrose takes 15 minutes to be absorbed. 15 minutes is long enough to die of a low blood sugar. These cost cutting measures put diabetics and hypoglycemics at risk for death from a low blood sugar. There IS a difference, but like I said, what I have to say about it amounts to an anecdote. I fear a lot of people are going to die over this supposedly minor chemical difference before something is done. 🙁

  7. Can you say where the name Dextrose is used by a non-US pharmacopeia? The UK and Europe use Glucose, as do Australia, New Zealand, India & Pakistan. I think Canada uses Glucose as well.

  8. @Nox:
    Not a minor chemical difference – not a difference at all. Different formulations of tablets might dissolve at different rates (and that might well be important), but that’s nothing to do with the name given to the sugar itself; if you call it (2R,3S,4R,5R)-2,3,4,5,6-pentahydroxyhexanal it dissolves just as fast.

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