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Maltodextrin: What is it, its uses, and side effects

What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a type of polysaccharide made from plant starch through partial hydrolysis. Maltodextrin has no nutritional value, it is a very easy-to-digest carbohydrate and can provide energy rapidly. It has a GI value of 106 to 136, yes even higher than table sugar.

Which Food Items Contain Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is used in everyday food items and hence most of us end up consuming it without even realizing it. Some popular food items that feature maltodextrin are-

  1. Baked Goods
  2. Energy Drinks
  3. Sweets/Desserts/Sugar Substitutes
  4. Frozen Food
  5. Soups
  6. Salad Dressings
  7. Pasta
  8. Rice and Cereals
Is Maltodextrin Sugar or a Sugar Replacement?

Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide produced from vegetable starch by partial hydrolysis. It is a white powder used as a filler to increase the volume of processed food. It’s also a preservative that increases the shelf life of packaged foods. 

Sugar or sucrose is a disaccharide composed of Glucose + Fructose. It is made by extracting sugar syrup from sugarcane or sugar beet and further refining it to solid table sugar.

Due to maltodextrin's high glycemic index, it gets absorbed into the blood pretty quickly so many people confuse it with sugar but it is not sugar.

Is Maltodextrin a Natural Sugar Substitute?

Technically, yes! Maltodextrin is extracted from starchy food items such as potatoes, corn, and wheat. In spite of the natural extraction, this sugar alternative is highly processed. 

Does Maltodextrin Need to be Labelled?

Yes! According to the Food Labelling and Consumer Protection Act. If maltodextrins are produced from wheat, the word ‘wheat’ must be included on the food label. However, if it's regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the source does not need to be listed even if it is derived from wheat.

In Europe, wheat is more common to make maltodextrins. The ‘wheat’ origin, however, does not need to be labeled and these wheat-based maltodextrins are seen as gluten-free carbohydrate sources and are used in gluten-free products.

Is Maltodextrin Harmful?

Maltodextrin is a white powder that is relatively tasteless and dissolves in water. It is an additive in a wide range of foods, as it can improve their texture, flavor, and shelf life. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), maltodextrin is a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) food additive, but research has linked maltodextrin with possible health risks:


Maltodextrin has an even higher glycemic index (GI) than table sugar. A spike in blood glucose can be particularly dangerous for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.


Many food additives can cause allergies or intolerances. Side effects may include allergic reactions, weight gain, gas, flatulence, and bloating.People with celiac disease or gluten intolerance should be aware that, although the production process will remove most of the protein components, maltodextrin derived from wheat may still contain some gluten.

Maltodextrin may also cause a rash or skin irritation, asthma, cramping, or difficulty breathing.

Maltodextrin v/s Sugar: Which is Better?

No, maltodextrin has an even higher glycemic index than table sugar. It can cause a sharp increase in blood sugar as soon as you consume it. However, maltodextrin is a bulking agent used in various formulated foods to increase the solids content and is an excellent replacement for sugar when artificial sweeteners are utilized. Therefore, it aids in the manufacturing of low-calorie foods and might be beneficial for industries and consumers of such products.


Maltodextrin is used as a common artificial sweetener and it’s assumed to be safe for most people. However, it can be potentially threatening to some, especially those who suffer from diabetes. 

In such cases, it’s better to opt for zero GI natural sweeteners for balancing both sweetness and health.

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Next article Maltitol: All You Need to Know about this Artificial Sweetener

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