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Maltodextrin and its influence on our health

Added : 19. May 2019

What makes Anapur so unique? That’s a frequent question asked by many superfood users and our customers. The short answer to that is – natural ingredients. Anapur stands on its vast range of natural ingredients, and we make sure that we don’t use highly processed nor synthetic ingredients. One of these “forbidden” ingredients is Maltodextrin. This ingredient is often the major substance in many nutritional products, food alternatives and supplements. Never heard about it? Well you wouldn’t use it at home, and you wouldn’t find it in any restaurant, but still, maltodextrin is used quite often in the food industry. In this article, our nutrition specialist MUDr. Jakub Hurych explains, what maltodextrin really is and why we should avoid its frequent usage.

Maltodextrin is a food additive which we all tried, but not that many of us know about it. It’s commonly used in manufactured products (cereals, cakes, confectionery, instant food, frozen food, sauces, cattle feed), food supplements, artificial baby food or fitness products (power bars, gainers, gels,…). It is used to increase the durability of these products, to improve taste and as a thickener or filler. It thickens the food so well that it can also be used as a fat substitute – a very grateful additive for the food industry. It is cheap, the food tastes better with it, it prolongs the shelf life and has fewer calories. Indeed, convenient for the industry, but very unsuitable for us, consumers. So why is it produced? And how does it affect our health?

How and why is maltodextrin produced

Maltodextrin is an artificial substance produced by the process of hydrolysis of otherwise natural starches (mostly wheat, corn, rice). Thus, it’s a highly processed product. So that’s the first red flag. This chemical treatment of otherwise natural energy sources produces a molecule with 3-17 glucose molecules. The chain length allows it to be labelled as oligo- or polysaccharide, thus not counting sugars in the nutrition facts chart. A great advantage for the manufacturer. But in our body, it works just like good old sugar. Its glycemic index (110) is even higher than the GI of the white table sugar itself (65) and even more than the glucose itself (100).

Its good degradability and absorbability cause high GI, and that has its advantages. It is used abundantly in sports dites, various energy supplements, such as gainers, power bars, etc. Its use in the diet of healthy athletes for the sake of muscle glycogen replenishment is still considered safe [1]. So if you want to replenish energy or gain weight quickly, MDX is probably a safe choice. However, if you are a bit interested in your health, there are much more appropriate options to quickly replenish energy after exercise which are safe in the long run: bananas, raisins, dates and other dried fruits. The real food is definitely more suitable for the body than a processed product.

Maltodextrin and its impact on health

Although widely used in the food industry, maltodextrin is associated with numerous health risks according to the available literature. Greatest risks are:

  • The rapid rise of blood sugar. Maltodextrin may cause a rapid and high rise of blood sugar due to its high glycemic index. It is certainly not suitable for people with diabetes and anyone else who wants to maintain stable blood sugar levels. A more suitable source are complex carbohydrates from natural sources such as whole grain cereals and legumes.
  • Deregulation of intestinal microflora. According to recent discoveries, the consumption of maltodextrin negatively affects the composition of the intestinal microflora and thus, the health of the intestine and the whole human organism. [2] Maltodextrin increases the presence of the harmful strain of Escherichia coli associated with the development of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. [3] Other studies indicate the connection of consumption of maltodextrin with a higher proportion of Salmonella, which may cause gastroenteritis (“intestinal influenza”) and which are also associated with the possible development of Crohn’s disease. [4]
  • Gastrointestinal complications and allergic reactions. According to a study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, in 2013, MDX consumption, especially at high doses, is associated with the risk of gastrointestinal problems such as belching, flatulence or diarrhoea. Allergic reactions are also frequent. [5]
  • Poor nutritional value. The spoonful of this processed substance contains about 40 calories out of 10 grams of easily absorbable carbohydrates. That is all. Nothing more. No benefit to your health. On the contrary. It quickly boosts blood sugar and soon, as it falls, you get hungry. That is harmful to people with diabetes, especially, but actually to all of us. Besides, it helps harmful bacteria to grow, which affects the health of our gut. And even after that, you will probably belch or, politely speaking, suffer from flatulence.
  • Resistant maltodextrin. A different way of treating starch is to produce resistant maltodextrin, which is difficult to digest and serves more like fiber and helps our intestinal bacteria. However, its production is more expensive and is therefore not widely used in the food industry for the purposes mentioned above. It is most likely to be found as part of a prebiotics supplement in much smaller amounts.

Summary

Maltodextrin is a processed food ingredient, and we do not benefit from using it. Quite in the contrary. It increases blood sugar levels, harms intestinal microbes and the whole intestine system. If possible, avoid frequent eating of foods containing this substance and eat real foods rather highly processed meals.

Maltodextrin is not corn
Maltodextrin is made from processed starch

 

Sources:

[1]        K. H. Fisher-Wellman and R. J. Bloomer, “Lack of Effect of a High-Calorie Dextrose or Maltodextrin Meal on Postprandial Oxidative Stress in Healthy Young Men,” 2010.

[2]        K. P. Nickerson, R. Chanin, and C. McDonald, “Deregulation of intestinal anti-microbial defense by the dietary additive, maltodextrin.,” Gut Microbes, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 78–83, 2015.

[3]        K. P. Nickerson and C. McDonald, “Crohn’s Disease-Associated Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli Adhesion Is Enhanced by Exposure to the Ubiquitous Dietary Polysaccharide Maltodextrin,” PLoS One, vol. 7, no. 12, p. e52132, Dec. 2012.

[4]        B. M. Schultz et al., “A Potential Role of Salmonella Infection in the Onset of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.,” Front. Immunol., vol. 8, p. 191, 2017.

[5]        Y. Kishimoto, S. Kanahori, K. Sakano, and S. Ebihara, “The maximum single dose of resistant maltodextrin that does not cause diarrhea in humans.,” J. Nutr. Sci. Vitaminol. (Tokyo)., vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 352–7, 2013.