What Is the Role of Glucose in the Body?

By Robert Mullis; Updated April 24, 2017
Sugar is turned into glucose in the body.

Carbohydrates such as glucose are important parts of our diet. Glucose acts as an energy source, a fuel which powers cellular machinery. It also provides structural benefits to cells which produce special molecules called glycoproteins.

Glucose Features

Glucose is a six-carbon sugar molecule which is highly polar and easily dissolves in water. This hexose molecule can be found in L and D conformations, but our body only recognizes D-glucose.

Energy Role

Glucose is the main energy source for body cells. When cells take glucose from the bloodstream, the sugar molecule is broken down through the process of glycolysis, which converts the hexose into pyruvate. Pyruvate can be metabolized further in the citric acid cycle.

Glycosylation Role

According to Essentials of Glycobiology, glucose plays a structural role with its inclusion in carbohydrate additions to proteins. These carbohydrate groups play important roles involving enzyme functions and binding.

Glucose Shortages

Although most body cells can utilize fats for energy in a pinch, brain cells and red blood cells rely almost completely on glucose to fulfill their energy needs. Even short periods of glucose shortages can kill these types of cells.

Normal Dietary Requirements

Our bodies can adapt to a wide range of dietary carbohydrate intake, but Human Anatomy and Physiology states that the general recommendation is 125 to 175 grams per day. A majority of this amount should be complex carbohydrates (grains and vegetables) as opposed to simple sugars such as candy.

About the Author

Robert Mullis is is a graduate of Liberty University with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and a second degree in accounting. As a writer, he specialized in math, biology, chemistry, literature, and business.