Maltodextrin: Is it safe?

Maltodextrin, a colorless, starchy powder, is frequently incorporated by food producers into various products to enhance their taste, consistency, or longevity.

This common ingredient is found in many packaged goods, including pastries, candies, and soft drinks, often listed on their packaging. Additionally, athletes might utilize maltodextrin as a carbohydrate supplement.

Numerous individuals have concerns about the potential health risks associated with maltodextrin. Let's delve into the reality behind these claims and explore the advantages and drawbacks of maltodextrin, as well as identify the foods that contain it.

Understanding Maltodextrin: Maltodextrin, classified as a food additive, is a tasteless, white powder that readily dissolves in water. It is widely used as an additive in a broad spectrum of food items, primarily to enhance their texture, flavor, and shelf life.

Maltodextrin can be derived from various starchy sources such as corn, potatoes, wheat, tapioca, or rice. However, it's important to note that the powder undergoes extensive processing after extraction from these natural products.

The manufacturing process involves a technique called hydrolysis, in which starch is broken down into smaller components using water, enzymes, and acids. This process results in the creation of a white powder comprised of sugar molecules.

Individuals with celiac disease should exercise caution because maltodextrin may contain traces of gluten if wheat serves as the source of the starch. Nonetheless, according to Beyond Celiac, maltodextrin is considered gluten-free as long as the ingredient list does not include the term "wheat."

In food products, maltodextrin can be beneficial in various ways, including:

  1. Thickening foods or liquids to bind ingredients together.
  2. Enhancing texture and flavor.
  3. Preserving food items and extending their shelf life.
  4. Substituting for sugar or fat in low-calorie, processed foods.

Despite its lack of nutritional value, maltodextrin is a highly digestible carbohydrate that can rapidly provide energy. Consequently, many manufacturers incorporate this powder into sports drinks and snacks.