Maltodextrin is a common food additive that is used in many food items that are processed. It physically looks like white powder and is made from wheat, starch, potato, rice, and corn. Maltodextrin may seem like it comes from a plant-based source but it, in fact, is a highly processed food additive as well.
It is created by cooking the starches then adding enzymes or acids to further break it down. The byproduct of this process is Maltodextrin and has a neutral taste, powdery appearance, colored white is generally water-soluble. Maltodextrin is similar to corn syrup with one notable difference and that is their overall sugar level. Corn syrup has around twenty percent (20%) sugar while maltodextrin has less than that.
Maltodextrin: Safety Concerns
Maltodextrin has been identified as a food additive that is safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its nutritional content is also recommended for inclusion in the total carbohydrates consumed per day by an individual. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a 45 to 65 percent (45-65%) make up of carbohydrates for the total calories consumed per day.
This recommended number of carbohydrates consumed should ideally come from carbohydrates that are complex and not processed food items that tend to elevate levels of sugar in an individual’s bloodstream. As such, a patient who has type 2 diabetes will normally be advised by his or her doctor to include in their calorie or carbohydrate count the amount of maltodextrin consumed for the day.
Fortunately, this additive is present in foods in only small amounts as it is pretty high up on the glycemic index or the GI which means that it can easily make an individual’s blood sugar levels spike up. Generally speaking, maltodextrin is safe for consumption in small amounts but patients with type 2 diabetes should be particularly careful of the amount they consume. As a rule of thumb, though, everyone can benefit from a diet that is low in the Glycemic Index or GI.
Why add it to food items then?
Maltodextrin is a food additive is usually added to food items as a preservative to increase the shelf life of processed food products. It is also used to act as a filler and to increase the volume or amount of manufactured food products. This is because Maltodextrin is easily produced and can be produced in great quantities at low costs. Because it is so cheap, it is usually used as a thickener for many common food items and sauces such as salad dressings, gelatins, and puddings. Some manufacturers combine maltodextrin with sweeteners to bulk up other preserved food items such as desserts, canned fruits, and powdered beverages.
Does it have any nutritional value?
Table sugar and Maltodextrin have the same amount of calories per gram at 4 grams per serving. Maltodextrin can also be easily processed by the body just like sugar and can be used to get that much-needed sugar rush and energy boost. As mentioned earlier, however, individuals should be careful when consuming excessive amounts of maltodextrin as it is pretty high up in the glycemic index or GI which means that it can quickly raise blood sugar levels, a situation that is less than ideal for patients with type 2 diabetes.
Should Maltodextrin Be Avoided?
Maltodextrin’s high glycemic index score indicates that it should only be consumed in minute quantities as taking in large amounts of this additive can dangerously and quickly elevate blood sugar levels. This further means that people or patients with any form of insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes should try to limit or completely avoid maltodextrin consumption. People who have a family history of type 2 diabetes should also try to avoid the consumption of this additive as they may have a tendency or predisposition to develop type 2 diabetes as well. Maltodextrin can also disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in the stomach and as such, should only be taken in limited or controlled quantities. A study conducted in 2012 indicated that maltodextrin can alter the balance of bacteria in the stomach in such a way that the individual can become more prone to the development of disease and illnesses. This is because maltodextrin can prevent the development of probiotics in the stomach, an important factor in determining proper and efficient immune system function.
What Are The Benefits?
With maltodextrin being tagged for a number of different adverse effects, people may ask “Does this food additive still has some benefits?”. The answer is yes.
Listed below are some of the situations where it can be beneficial:
Support people undergoing intense exercise
Due to maltodextrin being a carbohydrate that quickly processed by the body, it has regularly been added to various sports beverages and exercise bars usually used by athletes and bodybuilders. People who are also looking to gain weight may use maltodextrin to quickly gain the pounds they see as ideal for their body.
Aid people who have hypoglycemia
The high Glycemic index or GI or Maltodextrin means that it can raise blood sugar levels quickly which is good news for people with hypoglycemia or for those with low blood sugar. Extreme hypoglycemia can also be a medical emergency as insufficient sugar may result in brain damage. Maltodextrin can offer a quick and efficient way of increasing sugar levels in the body.
Help prevent Colorectal Cancer
Evidence suggests that maltodextrin can help prevent the development of colorectal cancer. It was discovered that a strain of this additive called Fibersol-2 can help reduce the possible development of tumors without any adverse side effects.
Help promote better digestion
Research points to the positive effect of maltodextrin in promoting better digestion in individuals. It showed positive effects on stool consistency, stool volume, and colonic transit time.
While this food additive has both its pros and cons, people should consider taking maltodextrin with caution and with appropriate guidance of their doctor or healthcare professional.