What is maltodextrin used for?

Reading nutrition labels on the food you eat is a good way to keep track of both the essential nutrients and the type and quality of calories in your diet. One ingredient that shows up quite regularly on food labels is maltodextrin. The name itself can be confusing because maltodextrin is not actually derived from malt, but rather from dietary starches such as rice, corn, wheat, or potato starch.

Maltodextrin is a water soluble and FDA approved multipurpose food additive. It’s generally used as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of processed food or as a preservative that extends the shelf life of packaged items. When used for these purposes, maltodextrin is chemically treated to create a simple carbohydrate that appears as a fine white powder. In terms of nutritional value, it’s similar to corn syrup, but contains less sugar.

You’re already eating maltodextrin

Chances are good that, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re already consuming maltodextrin because it is so often used as an additive in pre-packaged and processed foods. Another place you might find maltodextrin is in sports drinks and snacks created for athletes and for those who suffer from difficulty maintaining blood sugar levels. Because it is a fast-digesting carbohydrate, it delivers a quick blood sugar boost.

There is another form of this nutrient known as digestion-resistant or maltodextrin fiber which does not contain sugar and serves a different purpose within the body. Maltodextrin fiber is indigestible which provides necessary bulk to bowel movements and acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of good bacteria in the colon.

Need more?

In reference to the simple carbohydrate form of maltodextrin, people who suffer from diabetes or other conditions that cause insulin resistance problems should be careful not to consume too much maltodextrin because it can cause a dangerous spike in blood glucose.

On the other hand, the indigestible form of maltodextrin is quite useful as part of a fiber supplement. Clarifiber, which combines maltodextrin and acacia fiber along with chia seeds, provides a natural way to maintain good digestive health.