Maltodextrin is a group of complex sugars, rather than one carbohydrate. It ranges from more complex to less so and this depends on the method of production.
It is enzymatically produced from starch. The enzymes break the glucose chains in the starch molecules into shorter units, similar to the process of digestion in the human body.
Depending of how far this process is taken the product can vary from a non sweet starch to a sweet sugar composed of glucose molecules in short chains. It is not really useful as a sweetener, as it not sweet enough. It has a high glycemic index ranging from 85 to 105 so it should not be considered suitable for diabetics.
It is popular among bodybuilders as an aid to recovery after hard workouts, and there appears to be scientific evidence to support it's role in this regard. Care needs to be taken, however, regarding quantities used as it has a high glycemic index. Excessive consumption may create a load on the blood sugar regulatory mechanism.
If you are in the habit at looking at the ingredients lists on packaging, you will realize just how many processed foods contain this substance, it's everywhere! It's not used as a sweetener on it's own - it's not sweet enough. However it has unique properties that make it very useful in the food industry. It is often added as a thickener in sauces and gravy. It can be used as a spray drying agent for fruit juice concentrates. It is used in soup powders, coffee whiteners and infant formulas. Also used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binding agent in pills. Helps with the texture of hot cocoa powder mixes.
Appears to be useful for bodybuilders. It has certain properties which are useful in food manufacture, i.e. bulk and texture. It can be fluffed up to provide bulk to artificial sweeteners, while keeping weight and calories down. Regardless of the source, i.e. wheat or corn, it contains no gluten, it is pure carbohydrate. Therefore it is suitable for coeliacs.
Harmful to teeth. High glycemic index. It is a sugar and contains calories. There have also been reports of some people having allergic reactions including skin rashes etc. Why this is in unclear, it's a fairly pure product. Perhaps not pure enough?
Made from any type of starch, corn, wheat, potato rice etc. Enzymes and acid are used to break down the starch molecules into shorter glucose chains.
Can be bought from specialist nutrition and bodybuilding shops. However it's primary use is as a food additive and it is sold commercially for this purpose.
Not to be confused with Dextrose, which is actually Glucose and a natural product. Maltodextrin is artificially produced and is not found in nature. It appears like a fine flour, not crystals like sugar. Very water soluble, can be dissolved in cold water. It is usually available in a spray dried fine powder that is semi sweet. Despite the name it contains no maltose. It is used as a bulking agent in Splenda, all the calories in Splenda come from it. Splenda, unlike pure Sucralose, should not be considered suitable for diabetics!!
Has GRAS approval.
Conclusions and Summary:
Maltodextrin does not have any special value as a sweetener on it's own. However it does have uses in certain applications. It is sometimes sold in bodybuilding shops. However it is a sugar not a health food.
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