Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

glucose (also called dextrose in the food industry) is a monosaccharide—the most basic form of carbohydrate—commonly obtained from plants, which manufacture it through the process of photosynthesis. Glucose is the main energy source for humans and most other organisms.

When consumed, glucose is absorbed by the intestines into the blood. In response to the rise in blood-glucose levels, the pancreas releases insulin, the central metabolic hormone. Cells that need glucose have specific insulin receptors on their surface, permitting glucose entry into the cells. When present in the blood, insulin directs some tissue cells to take up glucose, other cells to store glucose (in the form of glycogen) in liver and muscle cells, and still other cells to hold lipids (fats) in adipose tissue (body fat). Insulin’s absence signals cells to turn off the uptake of glucose, break down glycogen, release lipids from adipose tissue, and put glucose into the bloodstream. When oxidized in the body, in the process called cellular respiration, glucose provides energy for cells; carbon dioxide, and water are the waste products of that process.