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Chemistry LibreTexts

14.3: Important Hexoses

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  • Learning Objectives

    • To identify the structures of D-glucose, D-galactose, and D-fructose and describe how they differ from each other.

    Although a variety of monosaccharides are found in living organisms, three hexoses are particularly abundant: D-glucose, D-galactose, and D-fructose (Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)). Glucose and galactose are both aldohexoses, while fructose is a ketohexose.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Structures of Three Important Hexoses. Each hexose is pictured with a food source in which it is commonly found. Source: Photos © Thinkstock.


    D-Glucose, generally referred to as simply glucose, is the most abundant sugar found in nature; most of the carbohydrates we eat are eventually converted to it in a series of biochemical reactions that produce energy for our cells. It is also known by three other names: dextrose, from the fact that it rotates plane-polarized light in a clockwise (dextrorotatory) direction; corn sugar because in the United States cornstarch is used in the commercial process that produces glucose from the hydrolysis of starch; and blood sugar because it is the carbohydrate found in the circulatory system of animals. Normal blood sugar values range from 70 to 105 mg glucose/dL plasma, and normal urine may contain anywhere from a trace to 20 mg glucose/dL urine.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Fischer projection of D-glucose

    The Fischer projection of D-glucose is given in Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\). Glucose is a D sugar because the OH group on the fifth carbon atom (the chiral center farthest from the carbonyl group) is on the right. In fact, all the OH groups except the one on the third carbon atom are to the right.

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