Maltodextrin powder is used as a stabiliser, sweetener and thickener in many packaged foods. It is found in condiments like salad dressings, spice mixes, soups and sauces, baked goods, yoghurt, nutrition bars, sugar-free sweeteners (take a close look at your Stevia sweetener!) and meal replacement shakes. According to research most people consume maltodextrin frequently without experiencing any adverse effects.
What is maltodextrin made from?
In Europe maltodextrin is primarily made from wheat and in the United States corn. The base starch is hydrolysed (broken down by chemical reaction with water), filtered and purified, then you get either maltodextrin, or corn syrup solids. The difference between these two is that maltodextrin is hydrolysed to have less than 20% sugar content, whereas corn syrup solids have more than 20%.
Is maltodextrin safe to consume?
There are two sides to every ingredient, and maltodextrin is no different.
It is very important to realise that maltodextrin is usually used in such small amounts that it doesn't have a significant impact in terms of the amount of protein, fat, carbohydrate, or fibre that it adds to foods.
In the few supplements that Just Vitamins sell which contain maltodextrin, it is a minor addition having very little impact. It is still better in the long run to watch your intake of this substance but in relation to the very small amounts you may find in some supplements you can buy from Just Vitamins, your intake will be negligible and likely to be insignificant compared to other sources you already consume.
The Good: Although maltodextrin is technically a complex carbohydrate because of its sugar content, it is not a sugar but it still has a glycaemic index of 130 by itself (table sugar is only 65). A high glycaemic index means that it goes through the digestive system and into the bloodstream very quickly and for that reason it is often used as an efficient delivery agent for other ingredients it is combined with.
The Bad: Easily absorbed carbohydrates like maltodextrin and sugar get into your bloodstream fast. If there is nothing for all that blood sugar to do (i.e. repair muscle-tissue, give energy), it will get stored as fat. If you have blood sugar issues or trouble managing weight, it would be a good idea to eliminate this ingredient altogether.
The absolute quantity of maltodextrin contained our supplements is minimal and the benefit of the supplement in question would usually outweigh any damage from the maltodextrin within.
Alleged Health Risks
The consumption of maltodextrin has similar side effects and health risks as most food additives but, as with most additives these side effects are very rare. These side effects include allergic reactions, unexplained weight gain, bloating and flatulence. Specific allergic reactions associated with the use of maltodextrin include rash, asthma, itching and difficulty breathing. If you experience any allergic reaction or other side effect after consuming maltodextrin, you should discontinue use and consult with a medical professional.
Are there any alternatives to maltodextrin?
Because maltodextrin is used for a variety of purposes i.e. a binding agent, a sweetener etc it is a unique substance that has no real alternative or equal. Alternatives could include saccharin, glucose, aspartame, sorbitol or dextrose amongst others but they will all have a good side or a bad side and their inclusion is pretty much unavoidable..