Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

glucose as a scientific term, is a synonym of dextrose, the name of a simple sugar or monosaccharide which forms part of other, complex sugars and also of starch; see sugar. Glucose is the form in which the human body uses sugar; and the digestion of other, more complex, sugars, and of starch and other carbohydrates, is a process of reducing them to glucose. The sugar in the bloodstream, which forms a store of quickly available energy, is glucose.

A Russian chemist, Kirchoff, published a paper in 1811 which described his discovery that starch, treated with mineral acid, yields a sugary substance. A few years later a French chemist, de Saussure, showed that the reaction was hydrolytic and that the end result was glucose. This happened at a time when, because of the English blockade of France during the Napoleonic wars, rich rewards were available to anyone who could produce sugar in Europe from indigenous plant resources. The factories which produced ‘starch sugar’ in France ceased work when the blockade was lifted and cane sugar became available again; but production of glucose continued in Germany and was established in the USA later in the century. The glucose industry has become a substantial one.