Maltodextrin: What is it?

If you go through food labels, you must have come across maltodextrin in the ingredient list. It is a commonly used ingredient in processed packaged foods. Maltodextrin has several applications in the food industry, has some health benefits but it has also been associated with many health risks. In this article, we have summarised the applications of maltodextrin, its benefits, its impact on health, alternatives, and identification of maltodextrin and substitutes in the packaged foods using food labels.

                                                                                                                                                           Richa Pande

Maltodextrin is produced from corn starch, rice starch, potato starch, or wheat starch after undergoing extensive processing. It is added in the food products to increase their caloric content, improve food palatability, and to maintain the food quality. It is also commonly used as a thickening and stabilizing agent. Maltodextrin is also used as a preservative that increases the shelf life of packaged foods. It is often used in preparation of fast foods and packaged snacks. It is also used to replacing sugar or fat in processed foods. Maltodextrin is also used as a filler in production of many food items and nutrition supplements. It is also used as a binding and carrier agent in production of tablets and capsules, and many sports supplements.

Maltodextrin is a FDA approved food ingredient. Maltodextrin has a high glycaemic index (GI) value. In fact, maltodextrin’s GI higher than that of table sugar. This means that maltodextrin can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels even quicker than table sugar. This is the reason why we should limit the consumption of foods containing maltodextrin as it is always recommended to have foods with low GI.  Foods with high GI should be specifically avoided by diabetics. Some research studies suggest that maltodextrin is also not good for the gut health. It has been found that maltodextrin can increase the growth of bacteria such as E. coli, which increases the risk of development of autoimmune diseases, and increase the risk of colitis, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Some people can experience allergic reactions after consumption of maltodextrin. This includes gas, borborygmus, diarrhoea, cramping and skin irritations. However, some research work also suggests that maltodextrin can promote the growth of Bifidobacterium in the gut, which is good for gut health. It is also well-known for its laxative properties. Some studies have even found that maltodextrin can be helpful in the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Some healthier alternatives of maltodextrin are-Pectin, Stevia, Guar Gum, Sago, Sorbitol, Erythritol.

Maltodextrin is commonly found in these food products-

  • Cereal bars
  • Ice creams and yogurts
  • Instant soup powders and canned soups
  • Popcorns
  • Health drink powders
  • Energy drinks
  • Bakery products
  • Sauces
  • Sweeteners and flavourings
  • Nutrition supplements
  • Sports drinks, and snacks for athletes for athletes trying to gain weight.

It is always recommended to go through the food labels to avoid picking food products that have maltodextrin in them. You can identify these products by going through the ingredient list and check if it has maltodextrin in it. You can also establish an understanding about the composition of maltodextrin in the food product. If it’s mentioned as the first ingredient in the ingredient list, then it means that the product is the major ingredient in that specific product. By referring to the ingredient list, you can establish an understanding if a product is healthy or not. Product 1 and product 2 below are oats and soup packs that are generally perceived as healthier products. By referring to the ingredient list, you can make an informed choice about the food product.

Pack 1

Pack one is a ready-to-eat oat snack, has maltodextrin in it.

Pack 2

Pack two is an instant soup powder that has maltodextrin in it.

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