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Dextrose vs. Dextran: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 1, 2024
Dextrose is a simple sugar derived from starch, used as a sweetener and energy source, whereas dextran is a complex polysaccharide used in medical treatments and as a blood plasma substitute.

Key Differences

Dextrose, commonly known as glucose, is a simple sugar that serves as a primary energy source for living organisms. It is widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries. On the other hand, dextran is a complex polysaccharide composed of multiple glucose molecules linked together, used in medical applications for blood volume expansion and as a blood plasma substitute.
Dextrose is crucial for metabolic processes and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream for immediate energy, dextran serves different medical purposes, including improving blood flow and as a carrier for drugs. Both substances originate from glucose, but their applications and physical properties differ significantly due to their molecular structure.
In the food industry, dextrose is utilized for its sweetness and as a preservative, enhancing the flavor and shelf life of various products. Dextran, however, finds its use in the pharmaceutical field, aiding in drug delivery and as a volume expander in hypovolemic shock treatment.
Dextrose is often found in sports drinks and nutritional supplements, targeting energy replenishment. Conversely, dextran is used in surgical procedures and medical treatments, showcasing its versatility outside of nutrition, focusing on therapeutic benefits.
The production process of dextrose involves the hydrolysis of starch, making it readily available and inexpensive. Dextran's production, however, involves bacterial fermentation, which can be more complex and tailored for specific medical applications.

Comparison Chart


A simple sugar derived from starch, used as sweetener and energy source.
A complex polysaccharide used in medical treatments and as blood plasma substitute.

Primary Use

Energy source in foods and beverages, medical treatments for hypoglycemia.
Volume expander in medical treatments, drug delivery system.

Molecular Structure

Single glucose units.
Long chains of glucose units.

Production Process

Hydrolysis of starch.
Bacterial fermentation of sucrose.

Application Field

Food industry, sports nutrition, pharmaceuticals.
Medical, pharmaceuticals, laboratory research.

Dextrose and Dextran Definitions


A form of glucose used as an energy source.
Dextrose is often added to sports drinks to provide quick energy.


A polysaccharide used as a blood volume expander.
Dextran was administered to the patient to treat shock.


A carbohydrate used in medical treatments to correct hypoglycemia.
Emergency kits often contain dextrose tablets for diabetic patients.


A stabilizer and thickening agent in food and pharmaceuticals.
Dextran is added to ice cream to improve its texture.


A soluble sugar used in fermentation processes.
Dextrose is crucial for yeast fermentation in beer brewing.


A carrier for drug delivery systems.
Dextran conjugates are used to target cancer cells specifically.


A sweetening agent derived from corn.
Dextrose is used in baking to sweeten cakes without altering their texture.


A substance used in laboratory research for size-exclusion chromatography.
Dextran gels facilitate the separation of biomolecules during analysis.


A key ingredient in IV solutions for nutrition and hydration.
Dextrose solutions are administered intravenously to support patients’ nutritional needs.


A biocompatible material used in tissue engineering.
Dextran-based hydrogels support cell growth and tissue repair.


The dextrorotatory form of glucose, C6H12O6·H2O, the naturally occurring form of glucose found in all organisms. Also called dextroglucose.


Any of a group of branched polysaccharides with various molecular weights that are used to prevent thrombosis, as plasma volume expanders, and as food additives.


The naturally-occurring dextrorotatory form of glucose monosaccharide molecule.


(carbohydrate) A biopolymer of glucose produced by enzymes of certain bacteria; used as a substitute for blood plasma, and as a stationary phase in chromatography.


A sirupy, or white crystalline, variety of sugar, C6H12O6 (so called from turning the plane of polarization to the right), occurring in many ripe fruits, and also called glucose. Dextrose and levulose are obtained by the inversion of cane sugar or sucrose, and hence the mixture is called called invert sugar. Dextrose is chiefly obtained by the action of heat and acids on starch, and hence called also starch sugar. It is also formed from starchy food by the action of the amylolytic ferments of saliva and pancreatic juice.


An isomer of glucose that is found in honey and sweet fruits


How is dextran produced?

Dextran is produced through bacterial fermentation of sucrose.

Is dextran safe for use in all patients?

Dextran is generally safe but may require caution in patients with specific health conditions.

Is dextrose natural?

Dextrose is natural, derived from starch through hydrolysis.

Can dextrose affect blood sugar levels?

Yes, dextrose can rapidly increase blood sugar levels, providing quick energy.

What role does dextran play in medical treatments?

Dextran is used as a blood volume expander and in drug delivery systems.

Can dextrose be used in baking?

Yes, dextrose is used in baking to add sweetness and affect moisture content.

Why is dextran used in blood volume expansion?

Dextran attracts and retains water, increasing blood volume effectively.

What are the side effects of dextran?

Side effects of dextran can include allergic reactions and fluid overload.

What is dextrose used for?

Dextrose is used as a sweetener, energy source, and in medical treatments for hypoglycemia.

What are the main differences between dextrose and dextran?

Dextrose is a simple sugar, while dextran is a complex polysaccharide with different medical and industrial uses.

How does dextran benefit drug delivery?

Dextran improves drug stability, solubility, and targeted delivery.

Is dextrose vegan?

Dextrose is vegan, as it's derived from plant starch, primarily corn.

Can dextran be used in food products?

Yes, dextran is used as a thickener and stabilizer in some food products.

What precautions should be taken when using dextran?

Patients with certain health conditions should consult a doctor before dextran use.

Can dextrose be used by diabetics?

Diabetics can use dextrose carefully, primarily to treat low blood sugar episodes.

How does dextrose affect athletes?

Dextrose provides quick energy, beneficial for athletes during and after exercise.

How does dextran support tissue engineering?

Dextran-based materials support cell growth and repair in tissue engineering.

What is the shelf life of dextrose?

Dextrose has a long shelf life when stored properly in a dry, cool place.

Can dextrose be used in fermentation?

Yes, dextrose is a preferred sugar source for fermentation in brewing and baking.

How does the body process dextrose?

Dextrose is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it's utilized as energy or stored.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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