Polydextrose is a synthetic sugar fiber. It does not occur in nature.

As a carbohydrate it is barely sweet at all, but it has only one calorie per gram, about a quarter the amount of sugar, and it can replace the bulk and texture of sugar in low calorie snacks. It is usually mixed with intense sweeteners.

It was invented by Pfizer and first approved as a food additive by the FDA in 1981. It is approved as a food additive in most countries.

It is used to replace sugar and fat in low calorie foods such as salad dressing, baked goods and ice cream. Low fat product lines have become popular in recent years, however in many cases, the sugar content has gone up. Consumers are becoming increasingly resistant to this, but without the fat or sugar the products have the taste and texture of cardboard.

Polydextrose, used in conjunction with intense sweeteners, natural or artificial, can bridge the gap. It can provide the bulk, texture, mouth feel and preservative qualities of the sugar and fat it replaces.

Low glycemic index. Low calorie. Not harmful to teeth. Suitable for diabetics. Works very well with other intense sweeteners. It is heat stable and is suitable for cooking and in processed foods. It is hygroscopic, and can act as a humecant and preservative. It contains 25% the calories of sugar and 11% the calories of fat or oil.

It provides fiber in the diet and is a prebiotic, so it may help gut flora, if consumed in moderation.

Obviously it is a synthetic product, and for some people this may be an issue. Other than the normal digestive issues such as flatulence if consumed to excess it seems safe. In this regard it's effects are milder them most sugar alcohols, about 90 gm per day were necessary to produce noticeable effects in trials.

There is no guideline 
Acceptable Daily Intake set by the FDA. Like Sorbitol it has a mild laxative effect. Up to 90 gm per day would be safe.

CSPI (US) Recommendation

The recommendation issued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (US) for this substance is - CUT BACK

This is likely because of the laxative effect. The FDA requires that if a product serving contains more than 15 grams, the label should state "Sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excessive consumption of this product."

It is synthesized from glucose and sorbitol using a process called vacuum bulk polycondensation. 

Sold As:
Not available to the consumer. Commercially available products are Litesse by Danisco and Sta-Lite by Tate and Lyle.

Interesting facts:
In some ways this product represents the holy grail for low fat low sugar products. It provides bulk, texture, mouth feel. It acts as a humecant and helps give a chewy feel. It helps preserve food and lowers the freezing point. In fact it does all the things fat and sugar do, but without the calories.

Approved by the FDA in 1981. Approved in over 60 other countries. Approved in the EU as E1200.

Conclusions for Polydextrose

Many low fat food products are high in sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This is to provide texture and taste in the absence of oils or fats. Polydextrose can fulfill this role, but with only a fraction of the calories. However it is a refined carbohydrate, and like sugar, has no nutrients. Has a mild laxative effect so best to avoid excessive consumption.

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Polydextrose 1 0.1 1 4

Taste: -------- Mildly sweet
Aftertaste: ---- No
Concerns: ----- Only in excess

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