Glucose is used as an energy source in most organisms, from bacteria to humans. Glucose is the human body’s key source of energy via aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen) respiration. Carbohydrates break down into monosaccharides. The biological processes called glycolysis and the citric acid cycle result in glucose being oxidized to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is the molecule our cells use for energy. The hormone insulin generated by the pancreas regulates the concentration of glucose in the blood. Glucose is used primarily as fuel to be burned or metabolized for energy to power the cells in our body.
Glucose combined with fructose (fruit sugar not fucose) creates sucrose—the sugar we all know as table sugar. It is a very versatile and chemically stable sugar. Besides making energy it can be used to make amino acids and fatty acids. Protein and lipids or fats can be created via cellular processes fueled by this sugar. The problem with this sugar is we get way too much of it in our modern diet. We now know that glucose can be used to make fat—lots of it. It is the reason for the obesity epidemic around the world. As mentioned before, it never was fat making us fat—it was the sugar glucose!
Glucose is the sugar used within the citric acid cycle that creates ATP inside the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the power plants of the cell. Mitochondria play an important role in apoptosis (more on apoptosis later). Mitochondria have their own unique DNA separate from the traditional DNA within the nucleus. Wow, isn’t that interesting? And mitochondrial DNA is passed on only by mothers. Fathers do not contribute anything to this DNA.
Glucose is a good and important sugar; however, we have concentrated it into corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS 55 is 55% fructose but still 45% glucose. It is the sweetener of choice used in virtually all processed foods. These artificially synthesized, intensely sweet concoctions are causing obesity levels to soar to rates never before seen. Sugar cravings and addictions and a host of related diseases with consequences culminating in diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and many others are increasing at exponential rates. While we need glucose in our diet, eating too much of this refined sugar is killing us.
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