What is Maltodextrin, and Is It Bad for You?

Medically Reviewed on 12/11/2020

Maltodextrin is a highly processed type of carbohydrate. It is mostly present in the packaged food extracted from natural sources, such as corn, rice, potato, wheat, and some other plants. Starches from these foods undergo a complex chemical process that involves cooking the starch at a very high temperature and mixing it with chemicals until they're broken down into a neutral-tasting powder. It is artificially produced and can be found in several different foods, such as artificial sweeteners, baked goods, yogurt, beer, nutrition bars, weight-training supplements, cereals, meal-replacement shakes, low-fat and reduced-calorie products, condiments, sauces, spice mixes, salad dressings, chips, pie fillings, and snack foods. It is used to improve the consistency, texture, and taste of the food item. Basically, maltodextrins are a group of carbohydrate entities (sugars) resulting from the more or less partial hydrolysis of starch.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA), maltodextrin is listed as a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) food additive; however, one may still need to be careful. If excessive amounts are consumed, it can cause health conditions. Maltodextrin is extremely bad for metabolism because it lacks nutritional value and may also spike your blood sugars. The dangers of excessive intake of maltodextrin include:

  • Probiotics: Gut bacteria are important in the growth of beneficial probiotics. Maltodextrin hampers this growth. It is also known to cause intestinal disorders by aiding the bacteria that are known to hurt the intestine. Maltodextrin also helps the survival of salmonella leading to a variety of severe diseases. It also increases E Coli adhesions and bacterial adhesions to intestinal cells. Maltodextrin may also cause various bowel diseases.
  • Side effects: A higher dosage consumption of maltodextrin can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gas and diarrhea. Cramping, bloating, and skin irritations are some of the other allergic reactions that have been widely reported after eating maltodextrin foods.
  • Genetically modified corn: Research has identified a number of health issues including cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney damage, reproduction difficulties, and allergies that can be caused due to maltodextrin procured from genetically modified corn.
  • Nutrition: Maltodextrin lacks nutritional value. 15 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates are included in a teaspoon of maltodextrin. That is the entire nutritional value of maltodextrin. It is processed to such a high extent that all the nutritious value gets stripped out of it.
  • Blood sugars: Maltodextrin has a high glycemic index, which can cause your blood sugar to spike and be highly dangerous for people with diabetes or insulin resistance. While the glycemic index of table sugar is 65, maltodextrin takes it up to 106 to 136. Maltodextrin gets absorbed into your bloodstream pretty quickly.

Is maltodextrin a rich source of energy?

Yes, companies use it in relatively large quantities in sports drinks and energy drinks. They bill it as a constant source of energy for athletes. It can provide fuel for muscles and help to get a better workout. It will also give you a quick boost in energy straight away. So, it can be useful for athletes. However, it is only recommended for people who are training hard. Unless an individual is exercising for an hour at a time, there is usually no physical need for that much energy.

How to limit maltodextrin?

To minimize the effects of maltodextrin, it may be combined with some fiber or protein that will help in slow digestion. People may need to avoid processed foods with additives, because of their impact on the body especially those who have difficulty digesting sugars from plants. It’s also best to eat low on the food chain to limit the consumption of maltodextrin. Fruits, veggies, grains, fish, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, and beans are better alternatives. Another great idea is to try using or consuming products that contain maltodextrin alternatives, such as stevia, honey, and dates. Look for products that have these better alternatives and make sure to read the labels before purchasing.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/11/2020
References
Hofman DL, van Buul VJ, Brouns FJPH. Nutrition, Health, and Regulatory Aspects of Digestible Maltodextrins. Published online February 12, 2015. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.940415