Side effects of maltodextrin

Updated April 17, 2017

Maltodextrin is a common ingredient in many foods we eat. It is relatively inexpensive to produce, and its versatility makes it a popular element in many prepackaged foods. For most people, it is harmless--many of us consume substantial qualities without even knowing it. It also has beneficial effects for other people. However, for a certain percentage of the population, maltodextrin could have negative effects.

What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin, according to the Sugar Association, an offshoot of the U.S. industry, is "a short chain of molecularly linked dextrose (glucose) molecules," manufactured by a process that breaks down starches found in common cereals such as rice or corn, as well as in starchy vegetables such as potatoes. The process typically produces a white or cream-coloured powder that can be sweet or flavourless.

Where is Maltodextrin Used?

Maltodextrin, because of its sweet properties, is used as an artificial sweetener. The popular sweetener Splenda contains maltodextrin. It also is used in many canned foods and dessert mixes. Maltodextrin also functions as a filler and thickener, meaning it can be used in place of cornstarch or flour to thicken sauces, gravies and syrups.

Maltodextrin has gained popularity for its use in many formulas that athletes and bodybuilders use. Its versatility allows it to be used in weight gain formulas, as well as mixes meant to control calorie intake. Serious fitness enthusiasts often purchase maltodextrin by itself to mix their own formulas.

Benefits of Maltodextrin

Because maltodextrin is more easily metabolised than other carbohydrates, it is popular with bodybuilders and athletes who wish to derive energy from their food for workouts or for competitions. Its use as a filler and thickening agent also makes it a popular ingredient for weight-loss or weight-maintenance shakes, as its consistency helps dieters feel full, decreasing the chance of overeating.

Diabetics also benefit from maltodextrin's ability to be more easily processed by the body, as it assists them with regulating their metabolic functions.

Drawbacks and Side Effects of Maltodextrin

As with high quantities of any carbohydrate, consuming large amounts of maltodextrin can lead to weight gain, simply because of the sheer number of calories one could be consuming.

People with specific food allergies, such as those who suffer from Celiac disease or have other allergies to wheat, corn, potatoes or virtually any base starch from which maltodextrin is processed, might want to stay away from maltodextrin or maltodextrin-containing foods.

Could You Have an Allergy to Maltodextrin?

A reaction to maltodextrin is often a reaction to the base starch from which maltodextrin is processed. If after consuming maltodextrin you have symptoms similar to allergies you have to wheat, corn or potatoes, it may be worth considering a potential allergy to maltodextrin.

Symptoms may include hives and itching or eczema-like rashes, asthma or allergic rhinitis.

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About the Author

Sonia Fernandez is a writer living in Santa Barbara, California. Her background is primarily in news, as a general assignment reporter for a local news website, but she also does the occasional magazine feature, Web article, short story or travel piece. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara.