Maltodextrin is one of the most common food additives. Basically, it’s powdered processed starch. Starchy foods aren’t good for your health to begin with. Especially your blood sugar.
What is maltodextrin?
Is maltodextrin a safe food additive in small amounts? Is it in part to blame for the ever-rising rates of obesity and diabetes? Or, is the answer not so black and white? Read on to determine for yourself whether it’s bad for you….
You’re becoming a smarter shopper. A more conscientious one to be more exact. Especially when it comes to buying food at the supermarket….
You’re learning to read food labels. Ever since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that added sugars be included on food labels, it’s become easier to take control of your health.
Are you wondering if it’s bad for you? No doubt you’ve seen it listed on numerous food labels.
Is Maltodextrin a Sugar?
Trying to cut down on foods that quickly convert into sugar? Want to avoid as much as possible eating and drinking things that get stored as body fat? Then you won’t want to consume maltodextrin (“MD” for short). And people with diabetes should avoid it.
MD is an added sugar. And the reason why it’s in so many processed foods is it’s cheap to produce. MD helps to extend the shelf life of packaged foods. It also thickens the texture. Of course, it also makes foods and drinks taste sweeter.
While you can’t really taste MD, it’s lurking there, ready to make your pancreas pump out insulin hormone. The more foods you eat with added sugars, the more insulin your cells need to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. When your cells can’t hold any more sugar over and over again, that’s when health problems like diabetes arise.
MD is basically a white powder. Excuse the clickbait headline of this article, suggesting MD is more dangerous than cocaine. But there’s truth to the assertion. In fact, more people die from metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity than cocaine….
What is maltodextrin made from?
Corn, mostly. But it can also be made from anything else that breaks down into sugar rapidly. This includes basically anything that’s a no-no on Paleo/Keto/Low-Carb diets: potato, rice, tapioca and wheat.
All these high-starch foods can spike your blood sugar. If you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, don’t eat/drink MD often.
How is maltodextrin made?
The white powder is made from breaking down corn starch (or any of the other starches mentioned above) into tiny, tiny pieces. The process by which is made is called hydrolysis. (Not to be confused with hair removal.)
What foods have MD?
Almost everything that comes in a package. But MD is especially ubiquitous in junk food like baked goods and snack foods. It’s also a very common ingredient in soda.
The problem with MD is that it’s in a bunch of other foods your probably would never suspect. Canned soups, pasta, rice, and salad dressing comes to mind….
What is Maltodextrin used for?
In addition to making foods have a thicker texture, taste sweeter and have a longer shelf life, there are other maltodextrin uses….
For example, MD is used in making supplements like vitamins and minerals.
Is Maltodextrin Safe?
Besides the fact that added sugars are bad for your health, is MD dangerous in other ways? Not according to the Food and Drug Administration. Obviously, if the FDA thought MD was unfit for human consumption, it wouldn’t be in so many food products.
In the USA, MD is considered GRAS, or Generally Recognized As Safe.
Of course, not every nutritionist would agree that eating MD is safe. Consider this study in Gut Microbes. The researchers allude to the fact that MD impairs the way your cells fight bacteria. MD also lowers your immunity against bad gut bacteria.
Is maltodextrin gluten free? Typically, it is. However, when the word “wheat” is associated with it you shouldn’t consume it if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Better to be safe than sorry, especially if you have a sensitivity to gluten.
Is Maltodextrin Bad for Keto?
Yes, it is.
Having a little MD here and there won’t necessarily kick you out of ketosis when on a ketogenic diet. But if you have stevia sweetener, there’s a chance it may also have MD. Many brands of stevia include MD. So the net carbs on the food label might not tell the whole picture. In theory, if you have, let’s say, 25 grams of net carbs one day, not including a few things that have MD, you might be bumped out of ketosis.
Of course, the only way to tell for sure is by testing with urine (less expensive; not as accurate) or blood tests (very expensive; very accurate).
The bottom line is don’t worry about having a little MD here and there. Just remember to check food labels. If you’re going to have a little MD with your morning coffee, try to cut out a gram of net carbs elsewhere to stay in ketosis.
The Good Side of Maltodextrin
If you don’t have a metabolic disease such as diabetes or obesity, you don’t have to avoid MD like the plague. In fact, there are some instances when it can come in handy, especially after an intense workout.
You see, in order to recover from an intense workout and not feel like a zombie for a long time after exercising, your body needs to replenish its glycogen. Glycogen is sugar in your cells and muscle tissue.
Some sports recovery drinks include MD along with protein or amino acids to help repair muscle tissue and replace the depleted sugars.
In addition, MD can help people recover from surgery. In one study patients undergoing gastrointestinal surgery either received a drinks before the operation with or without MD. (The group who didn’t receive MD fasted.) The results show that the average postoperative hospital stay of patients in the group given the MD drink was 50% lower compared to the fasting group.
The same study also concludes that surgery patients given the MD drink had less inflammation.
And here’s one more possible benefits of maltodextrin….
If a baby can’t digest breast milk, MD can be used as substitute for lactose.
There’s also some research that suggest MD can help people feel full. However, the conclusions were met with skepticism by other scientists because of flawed research methods.
The Good, Bad and the Ugly
Make no mistake about it: the increase in consumption of added sugars contributes greatly to the ever-increasing rise in diabetes and obesity and heart disease. These metabolic disorders, in turn, are culpable for increasing health care costs.
MD, because it can be cheaply made, is the food additive of choice for manufacturers. While MD itself can’t single-handedly be to blame for the rise in metabolic diseases, it’s an added sugar that’s best consumed in moderation.
While it’s up for debate if high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is worse than MD, it’s best to avoid as much as possible both of these added sugars.
If you want to avoid inflammation, eat a diet that’s mostly whole foods; enjoy processed foods as an occasional treat.
That being said, though, if you do intense exercise on regular basis, having a sports recovery drink with MD may just be what the doctor ordered.