The Unexpected Ingredient That Might Be Hiding In Your Ibuprofen

Ibuprofen — also branded as Advil, Motrin, and Midol — is a type of medication known as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It comes in various forms including tablets, chewables, and capsules. This over-the-counter (OTC) drug lowers inflammation in the body and can ease the pain of headaches, toothaches, and period cramps, among other ailments. 

Depending on which form of ibuprofen you're taking, there will be differences between the products. Ibuprofen may be the active ingredient in these drugs, but they can come with a long list of inactive ingredients, too. Therefore, it's important to pay close attention to the ingredients listed on the product label. Some inactive ingredients you might come across include corn starch, color dyes, titanium dioxide, or even bleached white wax (per 

But there's another ingredient you may be surprised to find on that list, too. While you'd expect to find it in candy, fruit juices, or a variety of sweet desserts, you might not expect it to be hiding in your fever-reducing medication. That ingredient is sugar.

Ibuprofen may contain sugar or artificial sweeteners

In ibuprofen capsules, tablets, or caplets, you may see sucrose listed on the ingredients label (per Sucrose, which is no different than the sugar you'd find in your pantry, is sometimes used in the making of medications to enhance their taste and make them a little more pleasant to swallow. As Mary Poppins would say, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Sucrose can also be found in liquid or suspension versions of ibuprofen. However, you may alternatively see high fructose corn syrup, glycerin, sorbitol, or sucralose listed on the label, all of which can also be used as sweetener ingredients. Sucralose, in particular, is 600 times sweeter than sugar yet the artificial sweetener has next to no calories. For kids ages 2 to 11, Children's Advil Suspension (100 milligrams per 5 milliliter dosage) has a sugar-free and dye-free option. In place of sugar, however, you'll notice that the product contains sucralose.

Should people with diabetes take ibuprofen?

People diagnosed with diabetes may be cautioned against using ibuprofen, as taking large amounts of the medication may cause a drop in blood sugar levels. This was evidenced in a 2021 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Clinical Toxicology in which researchers found a potential dose-dependent link between ibuprofen and hypoglycemia in people both with and without diabetes.

While the exact cause of this link has not yet been determined, experts theorize that NSAIDs may inhibit the sensitivity of cellular sensors known as ATP-sensitive potassium channels, which help regulate the release of insulin. This inhibition may cause the body to release more insulin, leading to a drop in blood sugar. Patients with diabetes who are already taking blood sugar-lowering medications may be advised by their doctor to avoid ibuprofen. Instead, acetaminophen may alternatively be recommended (per Healthline). Just be sure to speak with your doctor before taking any pain-relief OTC medications.