What is the Difference Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran

The main difference between dextrose dextrin and dextran is that dextrose is a simple sugar, and dextrin is a shorter-chain carbohydrate derived from starch, while dextran is a polysaccharide with a more complex structure produced by bacterial fermentation.

Dextrose, dextrin, and dextran are all types of carbohydrates, but they have different structures and properties.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Dextrose  
      – Definition, Structure, Features 
2. What is Dextrin  
      – Definition, Structure, Features 
3. What is Dextran
      – Definition, Properties, Examples
4. Similarities Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran
      – Outline of Common Features
5. Difference Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Dextrose, Dextrin, Dextran

Difference Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran - Comparison Summary

What is Dextrose

Dextrose is a monosaccharide belonging to the group of simple sugars. Its chemical formula is C6H12O6. It serves as a primary source of fuel for cells, mainly in the human body, where it is essential for providing energy to the brain, muscles, and other organs. Dextrose is common in nature. Fruits such as grapes and apples contain dextrose. Moreover, dextrose is a constituent of many starchy foods, such as grains, legumes, and root vegetables.

One main aspect of dextrose is its quick and efficient absorption into the bloodstream. When consumed, it undergoes rapid digestion, breaking down into glucose molecules that are readily absorbed by the small intestine. This rapid absorption makes dextrose an excellent choice for providing a quick burst of energy, especially in situations where an individual needs an immediate source of fuel; for example, during intense physical activity or for those experiencing hypoglycemia.

Compare Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran - What's the difference?

Applications of Dextrose 

Dextrose serves as a building block for larger carbohydrates such as glycogen, which acts as a storage form of glucose in the liver and muscles. When blood glucose levels are high, excess glucose is converted into glycogen and stored for later use. During fasting or physical exertion, glycogen breaks down back into glucose, ensuring a steady supply of energy.

In the medical field, intravenous solutions containing dextrose are commonly used to provide hydration and nutrition to patients. Dextrose solutions often help to correct dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and to maintain blood glucose levels in individuals unable to eat or drink orally. Additionally, dextrose can be administered in emergency situations to counteract low blood sugar as it provides a swift source of glucose to prevent complications. Dextrose is also used in the food and beverage industry. Due to its sweet taste and high solubility, it serves as a popular ingredient in various products.

What is Dextrin

Dextrin is a complex carbohydrate derived from starch that belongs to the group of complex carbohydrates, also known as polysaccharides. It is derived from the partial hydrolysis of starch. This hydrolysis breaks down the long chains of starch molecules into shorter chains, which form dextrin. The degree of hydrolysis determines the size and properties of dextrin molecules, which can vary from small dextrins with a few glucose units to larger dextrins with longer chains.

Dextrose vs Dextrin vs Dextran

Dextrin is soluble in water. It readily dissolves in water, forming a colloidal solution. Dextrin is also useful as a thickening agent that enhances the texture and consistency of sauces, dressings, and gravies. Dextrin can also function as a binder or adhesive in processed meats, providing cohesiveness and preventing the separation of ingredients. In the confectionery industry, dextrin is utilized to improve the texture and appearance of products such as candies, coatings, and fillings. It also acts as a carrier for flavors, colors, and other additives in food formulations. Dextrin serves as an excipient in the production of tablets, capsules, and oral liquid medications. It is also used in the adhesive industry.

What is Dextran

Dextran is a complex branched polysaccharide composed of glucose molecules. It is produced by certain bacteria during the fermentation process. This biopolymer is composed of glucose units linked together in a linear or branched structure, forming a high molecular weight polymer. Dextran exhibits a wide range of molecular weights, typically ranging from thousands to millions of Daltons. Dextran can be produced through microbial fermentation or enzymatic synthesis.

Compare Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran

One of its characteristics is its high-water solubility, allowing it to form highly viscous solutions. The viscosity of dextran molecules can be tailored by controlling the molecular weight, allowing for the development of materials with desired rheological properties. Dextran is biocompatible and biodegradable, making it suitable for various biomedical applications.

Dextran has many applications. Its biocompatibility and biodegradability make it an ideal material for drug delivery systems. Dextran-based nanoparticles can encapsulate drugs and release them in a controlled manner, improving their therapeutic efficacy. Dextran can also be modified to enhance its targeting capabilities, allowing for site-specific drug delivery. Moreover, dextran’s ability to form highly viscous solutions and its biocompatibility makes it suitable for use as a blood plasma expander.

 Similarities Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran

  • Dextrose, dextrin, and dextran are carbohydrates.
  • Moreover, all derive from glucose monomers.

Difference Between Dextrose Dextrin and Dextran


Dextrose is a simple sugar, while dextrin is a shorter-chain carbohydrate derived from starch, and dextran is a polysaccharide with a more complex structure produced by bacterial fermentation.


Moreover, dextrose is a simple sugar and the monomeric unit of glucose, while dextrin is a branched or linear polymer of glucose molecules, and dextran is a complex polysaccharide composed of glucose molecules with branching points.


Dextrose occurs naturally in various plant and animal sources, such as fruits, vegetables, and honey. It is commonly obtained commercially from corn starch through enzymatic or chemical processes. Dextrin is derived from starch which is predominantly sourced from corn, wheat, tapioca, or potatoes, while dextran is produced by certain bacteria.


Dextrose is a commonly used sweetener in food and beverages, and it is also utilized in the pharmaceutical industry and medical treatments to provide a quick and easily accessible source of energy. On the other hand, dextrin has various applications in the food industry as a thickening agent, stabilizer, or binder, and it is also useful in the production of adhesives, textiles, and cosmetics. Dextran, on the other hand, is available as a blood plasma volume expander and helps to increase blood volume in cases of hypovolemia or shock. Additionally, dextran can serve as a drug carrier or be employed in tissue engineering.


The main difference between dextrose dextrin and dextran is that dextrose is a simple sugar, and dextrin is a shorter-chain carbohydrate derived from starch, while dextran is a polysaccharide with a more complex structure produced by bacterial fermentation.


1. “What to Know About Dextrose.” WebMD.
2. Kathleen H. Miao; Kevin B. Guthmiller. “Dextran.” National Library of Medicine.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dextrose Saline 0.18% 001” By أمين – Own Work (CC BY-SA 4.0) Commons Wikimedia
2. “Dextran ball-and-stick” By MarinaVladivostok – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Dextrin skeletal” By Anypodetos – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

Leave a Reply