- What Is Maltodextrin and Is It Dangerous? A Succinct Review For Non-Scientists
- What is Maltodextrin?
- Why Use Maltodextrin?
- What Foods Contain Maltodextrin?
- Nutritional Value of Maltodextrin
- Is Maltodextrin Safe?
- Is Maltodextrin Okay for People with Diabetes?
- Is Maltodextrin Okay for People Who Avoid Gluten or FODMAPs?
- Is Maltodextrin Okay for People with Wheat or Corn Allergies?
- Is Resistant Maltodextrin the Same Thing as Maltodextrin?
- Does Maltodextrin Contain GMOs?
- Can Maltodextrin Help Athletes?
- Substitutes for Maltodextrin
- Top 6 Dangers of Maltodextrin and 5 Healthier Substitutes
- What Is Maltodextrin?
- Is It Safe? Top 6 Dangers
- Wheres It’s Found
- Any Benefits?
- Healthier Alternatives
- 1. Stevia
- 2. Pectin
- 3. Dates
- 4. Honey
- 5. Guar Gum
- Digestion-Resistant Maltodextrin: The Facts
- What Is Maltodextrin and Is It Bad for Me?
- Genetically-modified (GM) ingredients
- Allergies and intolerances
- Gut problems
- Weight gain
- Diabetes and blood sugar spikes
- It’s gluten-free
- It aids exercise
- It manages chronic hypoglycemia
- It may fight colorectal cancer
- It improves digestion
What Is Maltodextrin and Is It Dangerous? A Succinct Review For Non-Scientists
[Last updated 10th February, 2018]
Have you ever noticed the word “maltodextrin” in the ingredient list on a package of food?
It’s a very common ingredient, but is it safe?
This article will explain exactly what maltodextrin is, why it’s in so many foods and whether or not you should avoid it.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a white powder used as a food additive.
It can be made from any starch, including corn, wheat, rice, potato and tapioca.
It’s made through a process called hydrolysis, which uses water and enzymes or acids to cut starch molecules into smaller pieces. Short chains of sugars make up these pieces.
After hydrolysis, it’s purified and spray-dried to make a powder (1).
Even though sugar molecules make up maltodextrin, it doesn’t taste sweet. In fact, most people cannot taste it at all (2).
Summary: Maltodextrin is a food additive made from any starch, typically corn or wheat.
Why Use Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is used as an inexpensive filler to add bulk to processed foods, or as a preservative to increase a product’s shelf life.
It’s can also improve the texture of products (beer, for example), and serve as a replacement for sugar or fat in processed foods.
Summary: Maltodextrin adds bulk, improves texture, increases shelf life or serves as a substitute for fat or sugar in processed foods.
What Foods Contain Maltodextrin?
Many types of products may contain maltodextrin, including:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Baby food
- Breakfast cereals
- Dairy products
- Infant formula
- Instant pudding
- Margarines and butters
- Salad dressings
- Snack foods
- Sports drinks
Since maltodextrin can replace sugar or fat, manufacturers often use it in low-calorie or sugar-free products.
Non-food items livestock feed, lotions and hair care products sometimes contain maltodextrin as well.
Summary: Many foods and drinks contain maltodextrin, including artificial sweeteners, infant formula, salad dressings and sports drinks.
Nutritional Value of Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate that contains 4 calories per gram.
It does not contain any vitamins or minerals.
Maltodextrin is considered a high glycemic index (GI) food, with estimates ranging from 85-136 (3, 4).
The exact GI of maltodextrin is uncertain, since the most comprehensive listing of GIs available to-date does not include maltodextrin (5).
People with diabetes should be careful when consuming foods with a high glycemic index, since they could cause blood sugar spikes. If you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels, you may want to limit foods or drinks containing maltodextrin.
Summary: Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate with 4 calories per gram, and no vitamins or minerals. It has a high glycemic index.
Is Maltodextrin Safe?
Maltodextrin is listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food additive.
Though it’s not been shown to cause illness or disease, overeating foods containing maltodextrin may still negatively impact your health. Regularly eating highly processed, low-fiber foods with a lot of added sugars of any sort may cause weight gain, high cholesterol and an increase risk of type 2 diabetes (6, 7 8).
Some evidence also shows that maltodextrin can change gut bacteria. This is important to note because research has shown that gut bacteria play an important role in our health.
One study found that maltodextrin can increase the number of “bad” bacteria and decrease the number of “good” bacteria in the gut. This leads to a weakened immune system and increased risk of disease.
For example, maltodextrin increases the growth of E. Coli bacteria, which may have a role in causing Crohn’s disease (9).
Interestingly, the researchers also found that people with Crohn’s disease are more ly to have a gene essential for metabolizing (breaking down) maltodextrin (9).
This means if you’re at risk for Crohn’s disease or other gastrointestinal problems, you may want to limit maltodextrin in your diet.
Is Maltodextrin Okay for People with Diabetes?
As a carbohydrate, maltodextrin affects blood sugar levels.
You’ll find it listed under carbohydrates on packaged foods.
Maltodextrin and other refined carbohydrates have a strong effect on insulin and cholesterol levels. People with diabetes may want to limit foods or drinks containing maltodextrin, since it increases their carbohydrate intake.
Is Maltodextrin Okay for People Who Avoid Gluten or FODMAPs?
Maltodextrin is safe for people who avoid gluten, even when it’s made from wheat.
When producing maltodextrin, the protein parts (including gluten) are removed, leaving only the carbohydrate. Sometimes, however, low levels of protein may remain.
Even so, wheat-based maltodextrins are unly to cause harm in people with celiac disease, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (10).
One clinical study had 30 people with celiac disease consume maltodextrin daily for 24 weeks. Control groups consumed either glucose or a placebo. The maltodextrin group reported no intestinal damage or symptoms abdominal pain or diarrhea (11).
It’s also thought to be low FODMAP, however there are some concerns that it depends on the manufacturer. For this reason it’s best to avoid it during the low FODMAP diet.
Is Maltodextrin Okay for People with Wheat or Corn Allergies?
Maltodextrin should be safe for people with wheat and corn allergies.
Chemical analysis of maltodextrin has shown no detectable corn protein residues.
For people with wheat allergies, it’s highly unly that maltodextrin would cause a severe allergic reaction, according to the EFSA (10).
Summary: Maltodextrin is safe, even for people who avoid gluten and those with wheat or corn allergies.
However, there is some concern for those on a low FODMAP diet so it is best to avoid it just in case.
Overeating foods containing this additive may also change your gut bacteria and lead to an increase risk of disease. People with diabetes should be aware that maltodextrin can affect blood sugar levels.
Is Resistant Maltodextrin the Same Thing as Maltodextrin?
“Resistant” maltodextrin is different from regular maltodextrin.
Resistant maltodextrin has undergone a chemical process that changes the bonds between the sugars, making them impossible for humans to digest. In fact, it’s 90% indigestible fiber.
So, while we digest maltodextrin in a normal way, resistant maltodextrin passes through undigested.
Clinical studies have shown health benefits for users of resistant maltodextrin, including increased number of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine, and lower blood sugar, insulin and cholesterol levels (13, 14).
It also may have antitumor activity. Scientists are considering whether it may have potential for use in preventing colorectal cancer (14, 15).
Find resistant maltodextrin labeled as “digestion resistant maltodextrin,” “resistant maltodextrin,” “maltodextrin” or “soluble corn fiber.”
Summary: Maltodextrin is a digestible carbohydrate, while resistant maltodextrin is an indigestible fiber. Un maltodextrin, resistant maltodextrin may have health benefits, increasing beneficial gut bacteria.
Does Maltodextrin Contain GMOs?
Maltodextrin is often made from genetically-modified corn.
According to the FDA, GMO corn does not pose any health risk. Scientific evidence has shown that foods from genetically-engineered plants are just as safe as those from comparable non-GMO counterparts (16).
Since all ingredients in certified organic products must be GMO-free, maltodextrin in those products must be made from non-GMO corn or wheat (17).
Summary: Maltodextrin is often made from GMO corn. However, certified organic products containing maltodextrin do not contain GMOs.
Can Maltodextrin Help Athletes?
Maltodextrin is digested more quickly than other sugars, making it a useful ingredient in sports drinks and snacks.
It can help athletes fuel up on carbohydrates without feeling too full before an event.
Consuming sports drinks that contain maltodextrin or other carbohydrates can reduce muscle glycogen breakdown and improve performance when exercising for more than 45 minutes (18, 19, 20).
A combination of fructose and maltodextrin in sports drinks may be even more effective. In one study, the rate of carbohydrate breakdown from a sport drink containing both fructose and maltodextrin was about 40% higher than from a drink containing only maltodextrin (21).
This is important because the higher the rate of carbohydrate breakdown from consumed food or drink, the more muscle glycogen can be preserved. The thought is that by keeping muscle glycogen from breaking down, endurance performance will improve.
For recovery after exercise, products with a combination of maltodextrin and amino acids or proteins might be helpful. Some, but not all, studies have shown that these products promote glycogen replacement and building of muscle protein (22, 23).
Summary: Sports drinks or snacks containing maltodextrin can provide a quickly digestible fuel for exercise. Drinks that contain both fructose and maltodextrin might be an even better choice for endurance athletes.
Substitutes for Maltodextrin
It would be very rare to find maltodextrin as an ingredient in a recipe.
However, if a recipe calls for maltodextrin as a thickener, you could use pectin or guar gum as a substitute.
Interestingly, if you add maltodextrin to an oil (such as olive oil( it will turn it into a powder.
If you are looking for alternatives to processed foods or drinks that contain maltodextrin, you may want to consider products containing sugar alcohols or stevia.
Sugar alcohols sorbitol and erythritol have fewer calories than maltodextrin and don’t affect blood sugar as much. Do note that they can cause unpleasant side effects for some people, bloating and flatulence (24).
Stevia does not have any calories and will not affect your blood sugar either. You may find it blended with maltodextrin, however, so check the ingredient list to see if a product contains both.
Stevia is also sometimes blended with dextrose, which does affect blood sugar.
If you want to completely avoid maltodextrin, the easiest thing to do is choose whole, unprocessed foods.
Summary: Substitutes for maltodextrin include pectin, guar gum or certain sugar substitutes. The best way to avoid maltodextrin is to eat whole, unprocessed foods.
Maltodextrin is an additive found in a wide variety of processed foods and drinks.
It can be used as a filler, thickener, preservative or replacement for fat and sugar.
Most people should be able to eat maltodextrin without any problems. For athletes, it can actually help performance by providing a quick source of easily digestible energy.
That said, maltodextrin is usually added to heavily processed foods, which often contain little or no fiber and lots of calories and unhealthy fat.
While maltodextrin is considered safe, it’s best to avoid processed foods and food additives as much as possible. Consuming real, whole foods are the best way to manage your weight and obtain optimal health.
Top 6 Dangers of Maltodextrin and 5 Healthier Substitutes
Look over the food labels of many of your packaged foods and you may notice a very common ingredient called maltodextrin.
This artificially produced white powder is often used in our everyday foods, yogurt, sauces and salad dressings, sometimes without us even realizing it.
The truth is that maltodextrin can be considered a metabolism death food — it lacks nutritional value, and there are some pretty scary maltodextrin dangers to consider before opening up a bag of chips or baked goods, such as spiking blood sugar.
The good news is that there are healthier, more natural substitutes for maltodextrin, and some of them may already be sitting in your kitchen cabinet.
What Is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is used as a thickener, filler or preservative in many processed foods. It’s an artificially produced white powder that can be enzymatically derived from any starch, most commonly made from corn, rice, potato starch or wheat.
Although maltodextrin comes from natural foods, it’s highly processed. According to the FDA, the starch goes through a process called partial hydrolysis, which uses water, enzymes and acids to break down the starch and create the water-soluble white powder.
When the powder is added to food, it thickens the product, prevents crystallization and helps bind ingredients together.
The difference between maltodextrin and corn syrup solids is that maltodextrin is hydrolyzed to have less than 20 percent sugar content, whereas corn syrup solids have more than 20 percent sugar content.
Is It Safe? Top 6 Dangers
1. Spikes Blood Sugar
Maltodextrin can cause spikes in your blood sugar because it has a high glycemic index. This can be particularly dangerous for people with diabetes symptoms or insulin resistance, as indicated in research published in Nutrients.
Maltodextrin’s glycemic index is even higher than table sugar, ranging from 106 to 136 (while table sugar is 65).
Easily absorbed carbohydrates maltodextrin and sugar get into your bloodstream quickly, and if the carbs aren’t used for energy, they’re stored as fat.
This is very different than real complex carbohydrates from whole grains that are broken down and absorbed slowly, helping to keep you feeling full and energized for a longer period of time.
2. Suppresses the Growth of Probiotics
Maltodextrin can change the composition of your gut bacteria by suppressing the growth of beneficial probiotics.
Research conducted at Lerner Research Institute in Ohio relays polysaccharides maltodextrin have been linked to bacteria-associated intestinal disorders. According to researchers, the escalating consumption of polysaccharides in Western diets parallels an increased incidence of Crohn’s disease during the late 20th century.
A 2012 study found that maltodextrin increased bacterial adhesion to human intestinal epithelial cells and enhanced E. coli adhesion, which is associated with autoimmune disorders.
Even more research points out that maltodextrin promotes the survival of salmonella, which may be responsible for a broad range of chronic inflammatory diseases.
A study conducted at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center in Boston also indicates that maltodextrin impairs cellular antibacterial responses and suppresses intestinal antimicrobial defense mechanisms, leading to inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions that arise from an inappropriate immune response to bacteria.
3. Made from Genetically Modified Corn
Although the Food and Drug Administration does not require safety testing for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), increasing independent research has linked them to a number of health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, kidney damage, antibiotic resistance, reproduction disorders and allergies.
According to research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, genetically modified foods may toxically affect several bodily organs and systems, including the pancreatic, renal, reproductive and immunologic parameters.
Because corn maltodextrin is made by processing corn with enzymes and the United States Department of Agriculture found that 85 percent of corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified to be tolerant to herbicides, it’s most ly that the maltodextrin you eat is a genetically modified food.
4. May Cause an Allergic Reaction or Side Effects
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology noted that maltodextrin consumption, especially at higher doses, may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as gurgling sounds, gas and even diarrhea.
There have also been reports of other allergic reactions to maltodextrin, such as skin irritations, cramping and bloating.
Maltodextrin is sometimes made with wheat, but the production process is said to completely remove gluten from the wheat, making it “safe” to eat for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance symptoms.
During the processing of maltodextrin, all proteins are removed, including gluten, but there may still be traces of gluten in products containing maltodextrin. This can be dangerous for people suffering some celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
You may see maltodextrin listed with the product ingredients, but the name doesn’t indicate the source, such as wheat. Although maltodextrin is generally considered to be gluten-free, people with severe allergies should avoid foods containing this ingredient.
5. Has No Nutritious Value
A teaspoon of maltodextrin has about 15 calories and 3.8 grams of carbohydrates, and that’s about it.
It’s so highly processed that it’s devoid of all nutrients. While it can spike blood sugar levels and promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, as proven in studies, there are no real health benefits that come with the consumption of maltodextrin.
When choosing foods to use as sweeteners, binders or bulking agents, pick natural foods that provide some nutritional value.
6. May Cause Weight Gain
Given that maltodextrin has no nutritional value, spikes your blood sugar levels and is a simple carbohydrate, consuming it can actually lead to weight gain.
Being that it’s commonly used as an ingredient in nutrition bars and meal replacement shakes, you’d think the opposite, but remember that maltodextrin acts as a sugar in the body and will not help you to lose weight. This is why it’s commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders to help them gain weight.
Related: High Fructose Corn Syrup Dangers and Healthy Alternatives
Wheres It’s Found
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide, which is a type of carbohydrate. It’s commonly used as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of processed foods, :
Tapioca maltodextrin is used to make powders because it absorbs and thickens fats. Research shows that it encapsulates the oil and holds it within the powder until it comes into contact with water.
1. Supports Bodybuilding
Bodybuilders sometimes use simple carbohydrates after hard workouts in order to restore the body’s glycogen (stored energy) and glucose (usable energy) levels.
Post-workout, bodybuilders or athletes may choose to consume high-glycemic foods ( maltodextrin and dextrose) that raise normal blood sugar and insulin levels in order to get carbohydrates to the muscle cells.
Research published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that carbohydrate powder in the form of maltodextrin is safe for healthy young athletes who use it for post-exercise glycogen resynthesis, assuming they have adequate glucose metabolism.
2. Regulates Low Blood Sugar
Because maltodextrin increases blood sugar levels, it can be useful for people who suffer from chronic hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels.
For some people, consuming this polysaccharide helps regulate blood sugar when their glucose levels become too low.
3. May Fight Colorectal Cancer
A 2015 study published in Cancer Biology & Therapy identified maltodextrin as a tumor suppressant in human colorectal cancer cell.
In the study, the digestion-resistant carbohydrate appeared to possess anti-tumor properties and may be used as a dietary supplement agent by patients with colorectal cancer.
If you tend to eat packaged or processed foods, chances are that you often consume maltodextrin. Sticking to natural, whole foods is always a healthier and safer choice, especially if you have blood sugar issues or trouble managing weight.
There are natural sweeteners and sugar substitutes that add flavor to food, help restore glucose and glycogen levels, and can be used to bind ingredients or add bulk to recipes.
Here are some better substitutes for maltodextrin:
Stevia is a no-calorie, all-natural sweetener that comes from the leaf of the stevia plant. However, it’s important to know that not all stevia is created equal.
There are three main categories of stevia: green leaf stevia, stevia extracts and altered stevia ( Truvia). Green leaf stevia is the best choice because it’s the least processed.
Stevia has some sweet health benefits too.
Research shows that there are some positive stevia side effects. It can significantly reduce fasting blood sugar levels and balance insulin resistance in diabetic rats, for example.
Using a high-quality stevia extract instead of table sugar or other processed forms of sugar, maltodextrin, also helps you decrease not only your overall daily sugar intake, but your caloric intake as well.
Pectin is a carbohydrate that’s extracted from fruits, vegetables and seeds. Nutrition-rich pears, apples, guavas, quince, plums, oranges and other citrus fruits contain large amounts of pectin.
The main use for pectin is as a gelling agent, thickening agent and stabilizer in food. You can find it as an extract or powder in most grocery and health food stores, or you can easily extract pectin from apples at home.
There are many health benefits to using pectin as a cooking and baking agent. Most notably, it’s high in water-soluble fiber and promotes digestive health.
According to studies, it works by binding to fatty substances in the digestive tract, including cholesterol and toxins, and promotes their elimination, thereby detoxifying the body and regulating the body’s use of sugar.
Dates provide potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B6. They’re easily digested and help metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Research suggests that there are numerous health benefits of dates, and they serve as a potential medicinal food for humans around the world.
Dates make great natural sweeteners and sugar alternatives, plus they can be used to bind ingredients together, just maltodextrin (but way healthier). You can also use Medjool dates to make a paste in order to add bulk when you’re baking.
You can switch out your intake of processed carbohydrates to boost energy and replenish glycogen stores with pure, raw honey instead.
Raw honey is unfiltered and unpasteurized, so it holds incredible nutritional value and health powers. It contains 80 percent natural sugars, so it’s not surprising that it has been called “the perfect running fuel.”
Honey provides an easily absorbed supply of energy in the form of liver glycogen, making it ideal as a pre- and post-exercise energy source. Plus, there are many other health benefits of raw honey.
Un processed simple carbohydrates, honey raises levels of health-promoting antioxidants in the body, thereby boosting the immune system and acting as a preventative against many debilitating diseases. Honey also benefits the gastrointestinal tract and improves glycemic control.
In fact, research proves that honey has antidiabetic effects.
5. Guar Gum
Guar gum is one of the most frequently used binding gums in gluten-free recipes and baked gluten-free products. It can be used in place of maltodextrin and other binding products, and it works as a thickening agent too.
It’s very useful for keeping thinner ingredients, water, combined uniformly with thicker ingredients, coconut cream or oil. It can be used to make homemade kefir, yogurt, sherbet, almond milk or coconut milk.
Un maltodextrin, guar gum appears to slows down glucose absorption, which is beneficial for people with prediabetes, diabetes or high cholesterol levels.
Digestion-Resistant Maltodextrin: The Facts
Digestion-resistant maltodextrin (DRM) is an ingredient you’ve probably seen in diet supplements. What exactly is it? And how does it differ from regular maltodextrin? In this white paper, we’ll explain what each type of maltodextrin is, what they’re used for, and the risks and benefits of each. You may be surprised to learn about the many benefits of digestion-resistant maltodextrin.
What are Maltodextrin and Digestion-Resistant Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin and digestion-resistant maltodextrin (DRM) are types of dietary fiber. Fiber is a term used to describe a carbohydrate derived from plant products, giving our stool bulk and regularity. There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble.
While soluble fiber is dissolvable and digestible (i.e. can be broken down by bacteria in the large intestine, providing energy), insoluble fiber is non-digestible and exits the gastrointestinal system largely intact (Food and Drug Administration, 2017).
The FDA recommends that adults consume 25g of dietary fiber per day (Food and Drug Administration, 2017); however, this value is rarely met in populations consuming a Western diet.
What is Maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a digestible, artificial sugar derived most commonly from corn, rice, or wheat, and is used in seasonings and sweets, acting as a binding agent while providing a slightly sweet taste (Williams, 2016). This polysaccharide, or simple carbohydrate, contains calories, and is broken down by the intestine to produce glucose, which can be utilized as an energy source to fuel our bodies (Adams, 2017).
Maltodextrin is commonly used in supplements, such as mass gainers, which contain a high carbohydrate content used to increase energy and add mass to athletes, such as body builders (Adams, 2017).
It is also used in the gel packets consumed by athletes during endurance events, such as marathons and Ironman Triathlons (Williams, 2016).
Additionally, maltodextrin has been shown to help promote muscle recovery and reduce muscle breakdown after strenuous exercise because of its high glycemic index (Williams, 2016).
What is Digestion-Resistant Maltodextrin?
Digestion-resistant maltodextrin is also most commonly derived from corn and wheat (as well as rice and potatoes).
DRM is created by putting maltodextrin through an additional process that changes the bonds which connect the sugar units. It is indigestible because our bodies do not have the enzymes necessary to break down the new bonds.
Contrary to maltodextrin, DRM does not contain calories, so does not affect blood sugar levels. However, it still offers many of the benefits of soluble/digestible fiber (Adams, 2017).
Maltodextrin vs. Digestion-Resistant Maltodextrin
Maltodextrin has a high glycemic index, causing a rapid spike in blood sugar. Interestingly, this polysaccharide has been shown to raise blood sugar levels more rapidly than glucose (Williams, 2016).
Research has also shown that maltodextrin promotes increased growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut flora resulting in increased inflammatory properties, which is ly related to the sugar content. Side effects of maltodextrin include weight gain, bloating, and gas (Adams, 2017).
If you are not a body builder who is seeking to put on mass, or not an endurance athlete in need of a quick source of energy, it might be wise to limit your intake of maltodextrin.
Similarly, if you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes, where maintaining stable blood sugar levels is important, maltodextrin may be an additive you should limit or avoid.
DRM ferments at a slower rate than maltodextrin, which helps minimize many of the negative side effects (e.g. bloating and flatulence) that are experienced with the soluble fiber. Un maltodextrin, DRM can be used as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in the intestine.
In a cohort of 66 research participants, DRM was found to improve colonic transit time while also keeping their gastrointestinal system “regular” by adding bulk to their stools, maintaining balance in their consistency and frequency (Abellan Ruiz et al., 2016; Adams, 2017; Fibersol, 2017).
DRM may be better at regulating blood sugar levels during and after meals by not causing as steep of a blood sugar spike when compared to regular maltodextrin (Fibersol, 2017).
More importantly, DRM does not alter insulin levels (Fibersol, 2017), so may be a better alternative than regular maltodextrin for individuals living with diabetes.
While DRM contains little to no calories, research has shown people who consume DRM feel fuller and more satiated for longer periods of time after eating (Fibersol, 2017).
For example, one study found that participants who consumed a meal with 10g of Fibersol-2, a product that is classified as a DRM, felt more satiated for 1½ to 2 hours following their meal (Ye et al., 2015).
Another study found that Fibersol-2 reduced colorectal cancer incidence in vivo and in vitro through apoptosis (programmed cell death), preventing tumor growth (So et al., 2015). Phase II trials investigating this hypothesis are currently underway.
Whether you choose to use maltodextrin or DRM will depend on your personal needs and goals.
If you are looking to increase body mass, utilize extra energy during workouts, or speed up muscle recovery, maltodextrin may be your product of choice.
If your goal is to keep your GI systems regular, minimize calorie consumption (lose weight), keep blood glucose and insulin levels stable, or feel “full” for longer periods of time, DRM may be your product of choice.
Abellan Ruiz, M. S., Barnuevo Espinosa, M. D., Contreras Fernandez, C. J., Luque Rubia, A. J., Sanchez Ayllon, F., Aldeguer Garcia, M., . . . Lopez Roman, F. J. (2016).
Digestion-resistant maltodextrin effects on colonic transit time and stool weight: a randomized controlled clinical study. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(8), 2389-2397. doi: 10.
Adams, A. (October 3, 2017). The Health Risks of Maltodextrin. Retrieved December 7, 2017, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/502241-the-risks-of-maltodextrin/
Fibersol. (2017). What Is Fibersol®-2? Retrieved December 6, 2017, from http://www.fibersol.com/products/fibersol-2/
Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Dietary Fiber. Retrieved December 8, 2017, from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Dietary_Fiber.pdf
So, E. Y., Ouchi, M., Cuesta-Sancho, S., Olson, S. L., Reif, D., Shimomura, K., & Ouchi, T. (2015). Tumor suppression by resistant maltodextrin, Fibersol-2. Cancer Biology & Therapy, 16(3), 460-465. doi: 10.1080/15384047.2015.1009269
Williams, L. (2016). Maltodextrin: The Time and Place for High Glycemic Carbohydrates. Retrieved December 8, 2017, from http://www.onnit.com/academy/maltodextrin-time-place-high-glycemic-carbohydrates/
What Is Maltodextrin and Is It Bad for Me?
Whether or not you have any idea what maltodextrin is, there’s a very good chance you’ve consumed some of it in the last 24 hours.
Maltodextrin is commonly spotted hiding near the bottom of ingredient lists of packaged or processed foods. It’s a white, powdery, nearly flavorless starch derived from rice, corn, potatoes, or wheat.
It’s a fast-digesting carbohydrate, and a versatile additive that preserves flavors in processed foods. It also thickens food, mimics fat content, and prolongs shelf life.
To make maltodextrin, starches from these foods are subjected to a process called hydrolysis, in which they’re broken down through chemical reactions with water, aided by additional enzymes and acids.
So, it’s used as a preservative or a food thickener — does this mean it should be avoided at all costs?
Maltodextrin is considered generally safe to eat by the FDA. In fact, maltodextrins are also produced in the intestine when we digest starchy foods. They have the same calorie density as sugars and carbohydrates.
Read on to get the details on this ingredient.
The FDA affirms maltodextrin as a food that’s “generally recognized as safe.”
Maltodextrins are used to replace sugar or fat in many food products such as ice cream, dried instant food formulations, sweets, cereals, snacks, and beverages.
Given that these foods are widely consumed, they may be in your daily diet.
Maltodextrin is considered high on the glycemic index, with a score between 80–120, meaning it raises blood sugar about the same as glucose.
Because it’s found in many processed foods, a diet high in maltodextrin is ly also high in sugar and salt, and low in fiber. Such a diet can lead to weight gain, higher levels of cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
It’s always better to start with the bad news — that way it can only get better. Here are some potential concerns about maltodextrin:
Genetically-modified (GM) ingredients
Maltodextrin may be made from corn, and it’s increasingly harder to find corn that hasn’t been genetically modified.
While the FDA insists that GM crops are just as safe as traditional ones, there are some people who feel strongly about avoiding products made from GM corn.
Allergies and intolerances
There may be concerns for those with food sensitivities, particularly those with inflammatory bowel disease. Signs of intolerance to maltodextrin include bloating, cramping, and possible diarrhea.
The gut is a delicate ecosystem of bacteria, and the balance can be upset by what goes in. Some very unwelcome bacteria happen to thrive on maltodextrin and other processed carbohydrates and sugars, including:
- Salmonella. A study with mice found that high doses of maltodextrin given to mice suppressed their immune system’s ability to fend off this and other bacteria, potentially leading to gastroenteritis.
- Escherichia coli. Another study found that E. coli thrives on processed foods containing maltodextrin, which scientists believe may contribute to the development of Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate, so it has the same waist-expanding properties you’d encounter in a piece of white bread.
It’s generally found in pastas, frozen dinners, cereals, desserts, instant foods — all things to limit for the weight-conscious.
Diabetes and blood sugar spikes
Maltodextrin is the same as table sugar on the glycemic index, which means eating an excess can cause a spike in blood sugar.
So, although it’s tolerable in low doses, those with diabetes should try to limit those processed snack foods where maltodextrins are common.
Any of the following symptoms after eating a food containing maltodextrin could point to higher blood sugar levels:
- quickened pulse
- dry mouth
- nausea and vomiting
- difficulty breathing
- stomach discomfort
- fruit-scented breath
- frequent urination
In a nutshell, limiting processed foods and eating more whole foods with higher fiber content is the way to go.
Here’s a view of its good angle, under just the right light. Redeeming qualities of maltodextrin include:
Most maltodextrin is derived from corn, but even versions derived from wheat are normally gluten-free, since the gluten is removed during the manufacturing process.
It aids exercise
Think of this as the upside of maltodextrin’s high glycemic index score.
Studies have shown that fast-digesting carbs maltodextrin help to quickly replenish your stores of glycogen — a form of glucose stored in the muscles that acts as a reserve energy supply if blood glucose is depleted.
This means it’s effective for recovering endurance after or between workouts.
It manages chronic hypoglycemia
Once again, maltodextrin’s high glycemic index comes to the rescue! Those with chronic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can use it to quickly raise blood sugar in a pinch.
It may fight colorectal cancer
A 2015 study found that a digestion-resistant form of maltodextrin called Fibersol-2 was effective at significantly inhibiting human colorectal tumor cell growth.
There are two theories for why this is so — it may be that bacterial fermentation caused by the presence of the maltodextrin is responsible, and it may be due to improvements in digestion attributed to maltodextrin (see below).
It improves digestion
Research also shows that digestion-resistant maltodextrin helps to relieve constipation and support regular bowel function — it generally keeps things moving.
It’s also listed as an ingredient in popular fiber supplements Metamucil and Citrucel.
This may seem contradictory, given the previously-mentioned research linking maltodextrin to bowel disease, but the concerns lie mostly with the easily digested form of maltodextrin.
Again, maltodextrin is added to foods in order to:
- preserve flavor
- extend shelf life
- add thickness or texture
Some common foods that may include maltodextrin are:
- salad dressings
- frozen meals
- vegetarian meat substitutes
- artificial sweeteners
- candy and sweets
- energy drinks
- baked goods
- instant dried food products
It’s even found in non-food products such as:
- hair products
Many other additives exist with properties similar to maltodextrin, most of which are considered safe unless you’re sensitive to sugar alcohols.
Some alternatives include:
- Guar gum. A low-calorie binding agent made from guar beans.
- Pectin. A thickening substance that can be extracted from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Tapioca starch. A gluten-free thickener extracted from the cassava root.
- Arrowroot powder. A grain-free, gluten-free starch derived from the roots of a tropical plant, favored by adherents of the paleo diet.
- Sugar alcohols. These both thicken and sweeten food. They contain between one half and two thirds the calories of regular sugar, but they can still raise blood sugar. Those with sensitivity to sugar alcohols may experience bloating and diarrhea. It’s confusing because foods that contain these sweeteners can be labeled “sugar free” because they often replace sucrose and other sugars.
- Stevia. A nearly calorie-free sweetener made from the leaves of a plant in the aster family. Stevia products contain small amounts of maltodextrin as a carrier for the sweetening agent.
Many things in life have pros and cons, and maltodextrin is no exception. But it’s generally a good idea to avoid many of the processed foods it’s found in, for reasons beyond maltodextrin content.
Whether you choose to consume it, include it as a digestive aid, or use it to pump up your athletic endurance, is a good topic of discussion with your doctor or nutritionist.