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What Is Dextrose in Food?

Dextrose is a form of glucose, a monosaccharide, or simple sugar. Glucose is your bodys primary fuel, and while your digestive system can break down all the foods that you eat into glucose, carbohydrates provide the most amount of raw materials for glucose. Glucose molecules can occur in two different shapes, known as stereoisomers, and one of those forms is called dextrorotary glucose. Its also known by the chemical name of dextrose monohydrate, or d-glucose for short. The food industry calls this sugar dextrose. Dextrose is the right-handed form of glucose and it is used by your body. However, the left-handed form of glucose, known as L-glucose, is not biologically active.

 

Foods, primarily starchy carbohydrates, are broken down by the body into monosaccharides and disaccharides. Glucose is the main sugar that is produced, and it is used to make adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is the energy source for the bodys cells. Glucose is fuel for the brain, and low levels of glucose in the blood can have negative effects on mental processes. Glucose, in its biologically active form of dextrose, is essential to many biological processes. It is used to manufacture proteins and plays a role in lipid metabolism, according to 3Dchem.com.

 

Dextrose is commercially available in liquid or powder form and can be found in many grocery stores and stores that sell vitamins and dietary supplements. Dextrose is obtained from starches or cellulose. The raw materials can be corn, rice, potatoes or many other vegetables. The primary ingredient for making dextrose in the United States is corn. First the raw materials are liquefied, and then an enzyme is added to the liquid, which reacts with the starch and breaks it down into dextrose. The process of converting starch into the dextrose sugar is called saccharification, according to a paper titled "A Better Way to Produce Dextrose from Starch" on the University of Illinois website.

 

Dextrose is an important commercial product and is used in the manufacturing of a variety of foods, according to Cargill.com. It is used in baked goods and other foods to promote browning. In bakeries and breweries, dextrose is used to provide food for the yeast so that the yeast can complete its fermentation process. The sugar dextrose extends the shelf life of foods and helps to keep prepared foods from losing their color. Crystallized dextrose produces a cool feeling in the mouth, and it limits the amount of time that the sensation of sweetness stays in the mouth. For that reason, it is often used together with sucrose to provide a balanced sweetness to prepared foods.

 

Dextrose hasn always been a welcome addition to the U.S. menu. Sucrose, or common table sugar, is refined from sugar cane or sugar beets and has been a pantry staple for many years. But during the 1940s, war shortages pushed food producers to find new sources of inexpensive food sweeteners, and they turned to corn, according to the Candyprofessor.com. Americans distrusted this new food sweetener and had to be sold on the merits of dextrose and reassured that it wasn unhealthful. Today, the politics of sugar and sugar substitutes continues to concern the American consumer about health issues.

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