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Blog Nutrition Is Dextrose Bad For You: The Truth About This Simple Sugar!

Is Dextrose Bad For You: The Truth About This Simple Sugar!

is dextrose bad for you

Sugars, simple or not, can be pretty complicated. A delicate balance is usually needed in their consumption for you to realize their full benefits. Dextrose is not exempt from this. So what is dextrose and is it bad for you? Dextrose is a simple sugar obtained from corn and chemically resembles glucose. It has a wide range of applications, from being used as sweeteners in food products to clinical use. Keep reading to find out the truth about dextrose sugar and how it affects your health.

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What Is Dextrose?

Simply put, dextrose is corn sugar manufactured from corn starch. Its applications in the food and medical industries can be attributed to a chemical structure similar to glucose (5). It is typically used in baked products and processed foods. It can be administered as intravenous solutions to people with high potassium levels or low blood sugars or who need hydration. Also, it can be prescribed during post-operative care or in other situations for nutritional support, in combination with other nutrients  (7).

Dextrose, however, does have a high caloric content, the same as any other type of sugar (5). Like all foods with high caloric content, the results may be counterproductive if you consume too much of it. Facts like these about dextrose make people come up with questions like, is dextrose bad for you? Let’s find out.

Why Is Dextrose Bad For You?

Why dextrose is bad for you, and how is dextrose is bad for you. These are questions that have been around for quite some time. So what makes dextrose a sugar that people should consume with caution? These are some reasons and possible dextrose side effects that overconsumption may bring:

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Overconsumption Of Dextrose May Lead To Weight Gain

Dextrose has a relatively high-calorie content. Being simple sugars breaks them down immediately. When you take them over what is needed, the surplus is stored as fat, leading to weight gain (13).

Risk Of Developing Insulin Resistance

This condition is a result of glucose remaining in your bloodstream for a long time. When you consume a lot of dextrose or any other sugar regularly, it may trigger increased insulin release in your body. When this happens, your cells may become resistant to the effects of insulin over time, leaving excess glucose lodged in your body (12).

Hypoglycemia In Individuals Without Diabetes

For people without diabetes, excessive consumption of dextrose can lead to a baffling effect of low blood sugar. If your blood sugar rises rapidly in a short span, it triggers your pancreas to release enormous amounts of insulin. This signals your cells to use up blood sugar quickly as hyperglycemia can damage your tissues (13).

As a result of this false alarm and large intake of blood sugar by your cells, your blood sugar levels decrease rapidly, potentially causing hyperglycemia. You may then develop nausea, hunger, and dizziness as a result (13).

Read More: Natural Sweeteners For Those Who Are Stuck In A Vicious Sugar-Binging Cycle

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Increased Risk Of Hyperglycemia In People With Diabetes

People with underlying conditions like diabetes type 1 and 2 are perhaps the most exposed to this risk factor. Their inability to produce or respond appropriately to insulin makes them vulnerable to sudden significant increases in blood sugar (13).

An uncontrollable surge in blood sugar from eating too much dextrose may lead to hyperglycemia. If left unattended, severe hyperglycemia can cause tissue damage or death (13).

Stomach Upsets And Frequent Urination

These symptoms may be telltale signs of high blood sugar due to too much dextrose intake (12).

Heart Diseases

Multiple studies have linked excessive sugar intake and heart diseases. If you have a history of heart ailments, you should steer clear from too much dextrose to avoid the aggravation of any symptoms.

Additionally, other underlying conditions like kidney diseases and swellings in your limbs react adversely to excess dextrose (12). If you have any of these, you may want to limit dextrose and other sugars.

Of course, if you are prescribed or administered a dextrose-containing solution by your medical team, you don’t need to worry. In those situations, it is medically necessary, any underlying conditions are being taken into account, and you are being closely monitored.

What then is the other side of the coin? How does dextrose perform in comparison to other simple sugars? For instance, dextrose vs glucose, which simple sugar has more benefits. The next section explains the good side of dextrose.

dextrose vs glucose
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Why Is Dextrose Good For You?

When taken correctly and in moderation, dextrose in food and medicine can benefit your health. These benefits include:

Increased Cellular Metabolism

Intake of dextrose will prompt your body to turn it into energy. This, in turn, raises cellular metabolism, helping you stay active (12). Additionally, bodybuilders use dextrose-based supplements to give them the much-needed carbs after an intense workout.

If you’re a bodybuilder and are asking is dextrose in food bad for you bodybuilding, the answer is no. Taken in the right quantities, dextrose complements your bodybuilding.

Dextrose Provides Carbohydrate Calories

These calories are usually administered to people who can’t eat or absorb nutrients through the GI tract due to medical conditions, and therefore risk becoming malnourished. It is given in combination with other nutrients, such as amino acids, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes to provide complete or supplemental nutrition (12).

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Glycogen Can Be Used To Provide Energy

Dextrose can be stored as glycogen in the body. When there’s an energy deficit in your body, glycogen is used to provide energy (12). In turn, this helps the bodily functions run in an optimal state.

Applications of dextrose don’t stop in food and medicine. You can incorporate it in exercises too. How and why? Let’s find out.

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Dextrose And Exercise

Workouts can be very draining, especially to your energy reserves, glycogen. Your body usually needs to replenish the lost reserves and fast. That’s why simple sugars and carbs are recommended as a post-workout recovery food. They are absorbed and utilized very quickly- due to their simple structure- providing the much-needed energy (5).

Why dextrose? What makes it the convenient post-workout recovery option? While there are many ways to answer that, these are three most obvious reasons which just about sum it all up.

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Dextrose Is Easily Digested

The quickest way to replenish used-up glycogen is by taking dextrose. Dextrose is readily absorbed and stored as glycogen (14). This easily makes it one of the most convenient options out there.

Dextrose Is A Cheap, Safe, And Natural Option

Compared to other supplements, dextrose is cheap and readily available. It does not come with expensive chemical-filled promises that sound too good to be true like most artificial supplements. This makes it a safe and efficient choice.

Dextrose Drives Up Nutrient Uptake In Body Cells

During workouts, vital body nutrients are used to fuel our muscles. Nutrients then have to be moved around our bodies to necessitate repair and refueling. Insulin has a reputation for its many roles in your body, in this case, a transportation system for nutrients. This means that it aids nutrients to move from the bloodstream to muscles to start the recovery phase (14).

That’s where dextrose comes in. Dextrose is famous for causing a spike in blood sugar, triggering insulin release. This insulin will then make sure that nutrients reach their intended destination fast (14).

Timing is also a crucial aspect when it comes to the consumption of dextrose during exercises. A Colorado State University study shows that taking dextrose 2 hours before working out reduces any adverse effects. To benefit from the post-workout recovery effects of dextrose, you should consume it as soon as possible after working out (9).

Another concern raised by bodybuilders is if they can take dextrose on keto. This depends on which ketogenic diet you’re on. Ideally, dextrose will remove you from ketosis if you’re on a traditional ketogenic diet (4).

Even in targeted and cyclical ketogenic diets, complex carbs are recommended instead of simple sugars. Remember, the primary objective of being on keto diets is to keep your insulin levels low. Dextrose and other simple sugars will bring an inverse effect (2). So keto dextrose may be counterproductive.

Read More: No Sugar Diet Food List To Keep Your Carb Intake Reined In

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Why Is Dextrose Used In Food?

Dextrose is a very popular additive in the food industry. Manufacturers often use it as sweeteners, texturizing agents, or extend the shelf life of a product. 

Dextrose In The Bakery Industry

It is used to create balance in sweetness while influencing color and extending shelf life. It also improves quality, texture, and fermentation (5).

Dextrose In The Confectionery Industry

Dextrose being a reducing sugar, will make products containing milk protein undergo color enrichment in a process called Maillard reaction. It also elicits a fruity flavor, providing a light cooling effect (5).

Dextrose In The Drinks And Beverages Industry

When brewing low-calorie beers, fermentable dextrose is added to the wort obtained from Malt. This increases the percentage of sugars readily available for fermentation (15). Manufacturers can then produce a low-calorie beer with regular alcohol content.

Dextrose In Dairy And Ice Cream

Dextrose provides a delicate balance in dairy products and ice cream while improving texture and increasing shelf life (15).

Dextrose In The Culinary Arts

It is added to a range of mixes like sauces. This is because dextrose is a dispersion aid, a sweetener, and a bulking agent (15).

Dextrose In The Meat Industry

Dextrose is added in immersion curing brines for meat. It facilitates salt entry into meat tissues while enhancing color formation. Also, it removes the brashness of salt while improving overall flavor and regulating pH (15).

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Why Is Dextrose Used In Medicine?

The properties and chemical structure of dextrose sugars give it a variety of applications in the medical industry. These applications include:

Dextrose Can Help Treat Low Blood Sugar

A tablet or an injection of dextrose will provide quick sugar that counters low blood sugar. People with diabetes mellitus are often prescribed it to treat hypoglycemia, which can be very dangerous (2).

Treatment Of Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia is a serious condition where your body exhibits high levels of potassium in the blood. A solution of dextrose sugar is sometimes used to treat  this condition (3).

Treatment Of Lack Nutrition And Dehydration

A solution of dextrose, amino acids, lipids, micronutrients, and electrolytes, called  Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) or peripheral parenteral nutrition (PPN), is used to provide complete or supplemental nutrition. It is administered to people who can’t eat or absorb nutrients and risk becoming malnourished. A 5% dextrose solution in water, with or without other electrolytes, can also be infused intravenously to treat dehydration (3).

Considering all the pros and cons of using dextrose, you may want to explore alternatives to dextrose sugar for your non-medical uses. How do these alternatives perform in comparison to dextrose sugars? Next, we take a look at other options for dextrose sugars.

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Are There Safer Alternatives To Dextrose?

A lot of time is spent trying to answer questions like “how is dextrose bad for you” or “how it is good for you.” What about its alternatives? How do they change this narrative?

Some alternatives to dextrose include:

Raw Honey

Raw honey is a natural, pure, unfiltered, and unpasteurized source of sugar for replenishing glycogen (15). It is also readily absorbed and can be used without fear of adverse side effects.

Pectin

This is a carb that is obtained from fruits and vegetables. It can be used in food as sweeteners and as a gelling agent in medicine (15). Additionally, it is very soluble and enhances digestion.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the leaf of stevia plants. Stevia does not impact blood sugar the way sugars do and may be a useful substitute for people with insulin resistance (15).  While we’re talking about stevia and you’re wondering, “is dextrose in stevia bad for you” the answer is yes and no.

Caution should be exercised when taking variants of stevia containing dextrose. Dextrose adds both calories and carbs to the mixture that shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities (5). Although, due to the intense sweetness of stevia, this would be hard to do.

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Conclusion

Simple sugars are an effective way to get energy quickly. However, like all sugars, they should be taken in moderation. Taking them in large quantities may bring undesired effects that can affect your health negatively.

So is dextrose bad for you? Not really. However, extra care should be taken when using dextrose, especially by people with underlying conditions. Dextrose can release large amounts of sugar into your body over a very short period. If the sugar levels are not regulated, tissue damage and other complications may arise over time. On the other hand, dextrose is often used in medicine to treat serious conditions and prevent malnutrition. In those situations, it saves lives.

Sticking to a healthy diet based on your health needs, allergies and preferences is a great idea, however when combined with a workout plan that meets your goals, it might bring you significant benefits. Better mood, stronger muscles and endurance are just some. Check out the 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home below.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. C Dex Applications and Benefits (n.d., cargill.com)
  2. Dextrose (2021, drugs.com)
  3. Dextrose 5% in Water (2020, drugs.com)
  4. Dextrose for Body Building: Uses, Benefits and Side Effects (2019, vaxxenlabs.com)
  5. Dextrose in the Food Industries and Its Health Status (1939, pubmed.gov)
  6. Dextrose May Boost Sports performance (webmd.com)
  7. Everything You Need to Know About Dextrose (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
  8. Frequent Urination: Symptoms & Signs (2019, medicinenet.com)
  9. Glucose Plus Fructose Ingestion for Post-Exercise Recovery-Greater Than The Sum Of its Parts? (2017, nih.gov)
  10. How the Heart Works: Sides, Chambers, and Function (2020, medicinenet.com)
  11. Insulin Resistance (2021, medicinenet.com)
  12. Is Dextrose Bad for Your Health? (2021, medicinenet.com)
  13. Possible Side Effects of Dextrose (2018, healthfully.com)
  14. Ribose versus Dextrose supplementation, association with rowing performance: a double blind study (2006, pubmed.gov)
  15. The Food Industry-Functional Attributes of Carbohydrates and The Use of Sugar Substitutes (2018, libretexts.org)
  16. What’s Dextrose and why Is *This* Sugar Maybe Sorta Good for You? (2019, greatist.com)
O. Johnson
O. Johnson

Olivia is a passionate writer and a whip-smart proofreader who takes pride in her ability to turn hard-to-digest information into an enjoyable read. She is a book worm, a life of the party, a meditation and fitness enthusiast, and a champion for healthy living all in one. Dissecting dietary fads, debunking long-established weight loss myths and delivering science-backed quality content is her top priority. When working on a piece, Olivia tunes into her own experience of trial-and-error weight loss which helps her cut through the clutter when doing extensive research. Her unbridled enthusiasm spills over into her work and motivates readers to chase after their full potential.

K. Fleming
K. Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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