Uses of Glucose

Bread
Bread and crackers break down in your body into glucose. (Image: silatip/iStock/Getty Images)

The most common source of energy for your cells is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. Compared to the other types of sugars found in carbohydrates, glucose will raise your blood sugar the fastest. You can treat low blood sugar or hypoglycemia with glucose. Endurance athletes may use glucose to help improve their performance.

Simple Sugars and Glucose

There are three basic units of carbohydrate: the simple sugars glucose, fructose and galactose. Glucose is an important source of energy for almost all the cells in your body, especially brain cells. Fructose is another simple sugar that helps give foods a sweet taste. Often bonded to glucose to form the sugar lactose, galactose occurs in dairy. Most of the simple sugars will bond together to make new sugars. For example, sucrose or table sugar is glucose and fructose bonded together. Maltose is two glucose molecules bonded together.

Where Glucose Comes From

After a meal, your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, fructose or galactose. Glucose has the greatest impact on the sugar levels in your blood, often called blood sugar or blood glucose. Different types of carbohydrates include starches, grains, legumes and beans. Other carbohydrate-containing foods include fruits, milk, yogurt, regular soda, cookies, cake, candy, pies, brownies, honey, juice and Danishes. Also known as dextrose, glucose is available from other sources too, such as glucose tabs or as an oral gel or jelly. It can also be administered as an intravenous solution or injection as well to treat hypoglycemia.

Athletes and Glucose

Athletes may use energy gels, which contain glucose and other carbohydrates, to provide a readily available source of energy during long-distance exercise. Glucose-containing gels may also prevent the breakdown of liver glycogen, a form of stored glucose. In 2008, researchers reported in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism that they randomly assigned subjects jelly beans, a sports drink, gel or water before, during and after exercise during an 80-minute cycling exercise followed by a 10-kilometer cycling time trial. All the groups that received the carbohydrate supplement had higher blood glucose levels and completed the 10 kilometer trial faster than the group receiving only water.

Glucose and Low Blood Sugar

Diabetics are at greater risk to experience hypoglycemia, so it's important to understand its signs and how to treat it. Shakiness, sweating, hunger, headaches, weakness, rapid heartbeat and confusion are all indicators of hypoglycemia. If you're diabetic and experiencing these symptoms, check your blood sugar. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes need to treat low blood sugar by consuming glucose in the form of a gel or food, as directed by a doctor. After blood sugar returns to normal, eat a small snack with some protein if your next meal is more than an hour away.

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