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What is Polydextrose? Unraveling the Mystery

Polydextrose is a synthetic polymer of glucose that serves as a versatile food ingredient primarily used to increase dietary fiber content, replace sugar, and reduce calories and fat in various food products. Classified as soluble fiber by the US FDA and Health Canada, it is a complex carbohydrate made from glucose and produced in laboratories. Its unique composition and non-digestible nature make it a popular choice for food manufacturers seeking to improve the health profile of their products.

This functional ingredient offers several health benefits, including prebiotic effects, as it encourages the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, its use in food products can help those with diabetes or prediabetes maintain steady blood sugar levels. With its proven safety and compliance with global food regulations, polydextrose is gaining traction in both research and practical applications in the food industry.

Key Takeaways

  • Polydextrose is a synthetic, non-digestible carbohydrate used to increase dietary fiber content and replace sugar in various food products.
  • It offers health benefits such as prebiotic effects and blood sugar regulation for those with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • The ingredient is safe and compliant with global food regulations, making it a popular choice in food manufacturing and research.

Composition and Production

Polymer Structure

Polydextrose is a synthetic polymer of glucose, comprised of randomly bonded glucose polymers, including about 10% of sorbitol and 1% of citric acid. The molecule contains all possible combinations of α- and β-linked 1→2, 1→3, 1→4, and 1→6 glycosidic linkages, with 1→6 (both α and β) being the predominant linkage. This highly branched structure makes polydextrose unable to be hydrolyzed by mammalian digestive enzymes, classifying it as a soluble fiber.

Manufacturing Process

The production of polydextrose relies on using naturally occurring components, such as glucose (also called dextrose), which is often derived from corn. The manufacturing process involves the following steps:

  1. Mixing glucose, sorbitol, and a catalyst (typically citric acid or phosphoric acid) to form a mixture
  2. Heating the mixture to initiate polymerization
  3. Random bonding of glucose molecules occurs, with some sorbitol end-groups, and with citric acid or phosphoric acid residues attached to the polymers by mono or diester bonds
  4. Cooling and drying the resulting polydextrose mixture to obtain a stable powdered or granulated product

Polydextrose was first developed by Pfizer as a food ingredient for various applications, including increasing dietary fiber content, replacing sugar, reducing calories, and modifying fat content in food products. As a soluble prebiotic fiber, it serves as a bulking agent, stabilizer, thickener, and humectant, making it suitable for a wide range of food items.

Food Applications

Bulking Agent

Polydextrose is a versatile food ingredient that serves as a bulking agent, stabilizer, and thickener. This soluble prebiotic fiber is highly effective in replacing sugar, starch, and fat in various food products for calorie reduction purposes. Its ability to bind water and maintain the desired texture of food items makes it a suitable choice for enhancing fiber content in various formulations.

Sugar Replacement

As a sugar replacement, polydextrose contributes to the development of low-calorie, sugar-free, and diabetic-friendly food products. Its E-number, E1200, signifies its acceptance in European food applications. By partially or entirely replacing sugar in recipes, polydextrose allows for the creation of reduced-fat, reduced-sugar, low-calorie, and even low glycemic index foods, catering to different consumer preferences and dietary needs.

Dairy and Baked Goods

Polydextrose’s properties make it an excellent choice for use in dairy and baked goods. Its inclusion in commercial beverages, breakfast cereals, and baked items allows for the manipulation of nutrient profiles and calorie content. In addition, polydextrose exhibits stabilizing and humectant properties, which aid in maintaining the desired texture and moisture levels in these products, prolonging their shelf life.

Desserts and Snacks

In desserts and snack products, polydextrose serves as a substitute in the preparation of reduced-calorie cakes, candies, dessert mixes, gelatins, frozen desserts, puddings, and salad dressings. Its prebiotic nature and positive effect on faecal parameters further emphasize polydextrose’s beneficial impact on health and gut functionality. Lactitol, a sugar alcohol, can be found in foods alongside polydextrose under the name Litesse, further assisting in reducing sugar and calorie content while maintaining taste and texture.

Health Benefits

Soluble Fiber

Polydextrose is a form of soluble fiber, which plays a crucial role in maintaining good health. Soluble fibers can help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and provide a feeling of fullness or satiety. Moreover, polydextrose has prebiotic properties, meaning it can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. This, in turn, can lead to improved digestive health and better absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Low-Calorie Option

One of the benefits of polydextrose is its low energy value, providing only 1 kcal per gram. This makes it a suitable option for those looking to reduce their energy intake while maintaining adequate fiber content in their diet. Polydextrose can be used as a sweetener in food products while keeping the overall calories low.

Digestive Health

The hygroscopic nature of polydextrose allows it to retain water, which can help maintain healthy bowel movements. As a soluble fiber, it can also help alleviate constipation, improve stool consistency, and encourage good bacteria growth in the colon. This can result in a more balanced and robust digestive system.

Metabolic Benefits

Polydextrose has potential benefits for people with diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition. As a soluble fiber, it can slow down carbohydrate absorption and reduce sudden spikes in blood sugar levels. Additionally, polydextrose may contribute to better blood lipid levels and lower cholesterol, both of which are essential for overall metabolic health.

Prebiotic Effects

Probiotic Interactions

Polydextrose is a non-digestible oligosaccharide widely used in the food industry and has been identified as a potentially beneficial prebiotic. Prebiotics like polydextrose support the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut, which can improve overall digestive health. In particular, polydextrose has shown to have a positive effect on colonic bacteria, promoting a healthy gut microbial environment.

As with other prebiotics, such as inulin, the consumption of polydextrose enhances the probiotic interactions within the gut. These probiotic interactions help maintain a balanced gut flora and, therefore, support the digestive system’s overall function.

Fiber Gap

A common issue in modern diets is the lack of an adequate variety of fibers. The Nutrition Facts Panel often captures this deficiency, indicating a lower-than-recommended level of fiber intake. Polydextrose contributes to closing this fiber gap by providing an additional type of soluble fiber in different food products. This allows for a more balanced and varied fiber intake, ensuring better digestion and gut health.

Incorporating polydextrose into the diet can help individuals meet their daily fiber requirements and experience the associated health benefits. It is essential to consume a variety of fibers alongside polydextrose to promote a prebiotic effect and ensure optimal digestion and overall health.

Gastrointestinal Impact

Constipation and Diarrhea

Polydextrose is a complex carbohydrate made from glucose and is considered a soluble prebiotic fiber. Its structure makes it resistant to digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract, thus exhibiting fiber-like properties. Consuming polydextrose can help regulate bowel movements and alleviate constipation by increasing stool bulk. However, excessive intake of polydextrose may cause diarrhea in some individuals due to its laxative effect.

Gas Production

The fermentation of polydextrose in the large intestine by gut microbiota can lead to the production of gas. This process is natural, but it may cause flatulence or bloating in some individuals. The severity of these symptoms may vary depending on factors such as individual tolerance levels and the amount of polydextrose consumed.

Gastrointestinal Tolerance

Gastrointestinal tolerance to polydextrose varies among individuals. Lower doses of polydextrose are generally well-tolerated, but higher doses might cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, or loose stools. Studies have shown that gradually increasing the intake of polydextrose can help improve tolerance and minimize any potential side effects.

Transit Time

Polydextrose can influence the transit time of food through the gastrointestinal tract. As a soluble fiber, it can absorb water and slow down the movement of food in the stomach and small intestine, leading to increased feelings of fullness and satiety. Additionally, polydextrose speeds up the passage of food through the large intestine by increasing stool bulk, thereby potentially reducing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.

Safety and Regulations

FDA Approval

Polydextrose (CAS Reg. No. 68424-04-4) is a partially metabolizable water-soluble polymer that is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food. The polymer is prepared by the condensation of a melt, which consists of approximately 89 percent D-glucose, 10 percent sorbitol, and 1 percent citric acid or 90 percent D-glucose, 10 percent sorbitol, and 0.1 percent phosphoric acid (source).

Health Canada Guidelines

Health Canada does not explicitly regulate polydextrose; however, as a food ingredient, it is subject to the general safety requirements outlined in the Food and Drugs Act and the Food and Drug Regulations. Polydextrose is not prohibited, and Canadian food producers are allowed to use it as a food ingredient in compliance with these broader regulations.

European Commission

The European Commission regulates polydextrose as a food additive under the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It is approved by the EFSA, which evaluates its safety for use in various food categories. In 2010, the EFSA re-evaluated polydextrose and concluded that it is safe for all population groups and does not pose any safety concerns when consumed as a food additive (source).

WHO/FAO Standards

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has also evaluated the safety of polydextrose as a food additive. In 1987, they established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) of “not specified” for polydextrose, meaning that it can be consumed without an upper limit for an individual’s daily intake. This designation is given only when a food additive is deemed safe with no concerns about potential toxicity or adverse effects (source).

Nutritional Labeling

Caloric Value

Polydextrose is a synthetic polymer of glucose often used in food products as a soluble fiber to replace sugar and reduce caloric value. It’s considered a low-calorie ingredient, as it only provides about 1 calorie per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for regular sugars.

Fiber Counts

One of the main benefits of using polydextrose is its ability to increase dietary fiber content, helping to bridge the fiber gap in many people’s diets. Diets high in fiber, particularly from whole grain foods, raw fruits, and vegetables, contribute to better overall health by addressing nutrients of public health concern such as potassium. The US FDA and Health Canada classify polydextrose as a soluble fiber, which can help improve serum lipids, triglycerides, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins.

Fats and Lipids

Polydextrose can also be utilized as a fat replacer in certain food products, contributing to reduced fat content without compromising texture or taste. This reduction in fat content can lead to a lower content of calories and saturated fats in the food. Using polydextrose in this manner supports a healthier food product by minimizing calorie intake and maintaining a balance of good lipids for cardiovascular health.

Research and Studies

Physiologic Functions

Polydextrose (PDX) is a non-digestible oligosaccharide used widely across various sectors of the food industry. It is a randomly linked glucose oligomer containing small amounts of sorbitol and citric acid. The random bonds in PDX prevent mammalian digestive enzymes from readily hydrolyzing the molecule, and it has a reported energy value of 1 kcal/g1. Being a soluble prebiotic fiber, it has several physiological functions, which include acting as a bulking agent, stabilizer, thickener, and humectant2.

Formulas and Supplementation

In formulas, PDX is often applied as a replacer of sugar, starch, and fat, helping to reduce calorie content2. As PDX is water-soluble and demonstrates fiber-like properties3, it has been used in appetite suppression trials4. Studies have shown that it can potentially increase satiety and possibly reduce food intake3.

Maillard Reaction

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars, typically occurring when foods are heated5. However, when it comes to polydextrose, information on its interaction with the Maillard reaction is scarce. Further research is needed to better understand these interactions and their potential consequences.

Uses in Special Diets

Polydextrose is a versatile and useful ingredient in special diets. It is a synthetic polymer of glucose and is classified as a soluble fiber by the US FDA and Health Canada. Due to its unique properties, it plays an important role in certain diets, such as diabetic-friendly and fiber-rich options.


Polydextrose is an excellent choice for individuals with diabetes or prediabetes, as it can help slow down the absorption of glucose. This effect leads to a lower glycemic index and minimized glucose and insulin spikes. The slower absorption is beneficial for maintaining stable blood sugar levels, making it a suitable addition to a diabetic-friendly diet.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Incorporating fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index can provide healthy nutrients without causing drastic blood sugar fluctuations. Polydextrose can be added as a soluble fiber to these food options, further enhancing their benefits for diabetics.

  • Complex carbohydrates: Diabetic-friendly diets often emphasize complex carbohydrates over simple sugars to help manage blood sugar levels. Polydextrose, being a complex carbohydrate, can be used to replace sugar and reduce caloric content in various recipes.

Fiber-Rich Options

Polydextrose is frequently used to increase the dietary fiber content of food, making it an ideal choice for fiber-rich diets. This increase in fiber has numerous health benefits and can positively impact the digestive system.

  • Fiber content: The addition of polydextrose can enhance the fiber content of various foods, contributing to the recommended daily intake of fiber. A fiber-rich diet can lead to improved digestion, reduced transit time, and overall better gut health.

  • Transit time: The random bonds of polydextrose prevent digestive enzymes from easily breaking it down. This results in a slower transit time and increased satiety, which can aid in weight management and overall digestive health.

By incorporating polydextrose-rich foods and beverages into special diets, individuals can reap the benefits of improved blood sugar control and enhanced digestive health.

Specialty Ingredients and Alternatives

Polydextrose is a specialty ingredient used in various food products not only as a dietary fiber source but also as an alternative to traditional components like sugar, starch, and fat. As a complex carbohydrate made from glucose, polydextrose is a synthesized polysaccharide composed of randomly bonded glucose polymers, and includes small amounts of sorbitol and citric acid (about 10% and 1%, respectively).

Since polydextrose is not digested by the body, it serves as a low-calorie bulking agent, stabilizer, thickener, and humectant. This positions polydextrose as an ideal ingredient for fat replacement, contributing to calorie reduction in various food products. Additionally, its soluble fiber properties classify it as a prebiotic, benefiting gut health.

When compared to alternatives like inulin, another soluble fiber commonly found in plants like onions, artichokes, and chicory, polydextrose stands out as an artificial option. Both inulin and polydextrose share properties as low-glycemic prebiotic fibers, but inulin is sourced naturally while polydextrose is created in a lab.

As a fat replacer, polydextrose brings a number of benefits, such as:

  • Lower caloric content: Compared to fats which contribute 9 calories per gram, polydextrose only adds 1-4 calories per gram to the final product.
  • Improved mouthfeel: Its ability to mimic the textural attributes of fat helps maintain a pleasant mouthfeel in reduced-fat products.
  • Increased shelf life: Its low hygroscopic nature prevents moisture uptake and enhances storage stability.

In summary, polydextrose is a versatile ingredient with applications as a fiber source, fat replacement, and other functional properties in food products. With its low caloric content and prebiotic benefits, it can be a valuable addition to various types of food formulations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does polydextrose affect blood sugar levels?

Polydextrose is a complex carbohydrate made from glucose, but it is not easily digested by the body. Due to its low digestibility, polydextrose does not have a significant impact on blood sugar levels. It is often used as a replacement for sugar, starch, and fat in various food products.

What are the health benefits of polydextrose?

Polydextrose can provide several health benefits, including acting as a prebiotic to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It has also been used to help manage diabetes, improve infant development, and provide relief for scaly, itchy skin conditions like eczema.

In what ways is polydextrose utilized?

This versatile ingredient is used as a bulking agent, stabilizer, thickener, and humectant in a variety of food products. Polydextrose can be found in items like baked goods, ice cream, and other low-calorie or reduced-sugar foods as a replacement for sugar, starch, and fat.

Is polydextrose suitable for a keto diet?

Polydextrose has a low glycemic index, so it may be suitable for a keto diet. As with any dietary restriction, it’s essential to consult with a medical professional or a qualified nutritionist to ensure that polydextrose fits within your specific nutritional needs and goals.

What is the glycemic index of polydextrose?

The glycemic index of polydextrose is considered to be very low, as it does not dramatically affect blood sugar levels. This makes it an attractive sugar substitute for those managing diabetes or following a low-glycemic diet.

How does polydextrose impact cholesterol levels?

There is limited information available on the direct impact of polydextrose on cholesterol levels. However, it is known to act as a prebiotic and support good gut bacteria growth, which may positively influence overall health and cholesterol levels. As always, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice on managing cholesterol levels.


  1. Polydextrose: Physiological Function, and Effects on Health. source

  2. Polydextrose – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. source 2

  3. Polydextrose: its impact on short-term food intake and … – PubMed. source 2

  4. Effects of polydextrose on different levels of energy intake. A … source

  5. The Maillard Reaction. Nutr Rev. source