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    Is Maltodextrin Sugar?

    Is Maltodextrin Sugar?

    Maltodextrin is an ingredient that seems to be everywhere these days. From protein powders to soft drinks, this white powdery additive is in thousands of products on grocery store shelves. But is maltodextrin a sugar? It’s a confusing question. The FDA doesn’t classify maltodextrin as a sugar. Yet it’s derived from plants like corn, wheat and potatoes.

    This article aims to get to the bottom of the great maltodextrin debate. You’ll learn what precisely maltodextrin is, why food labels can be misleading, and most importantly…Should you be avoiding maltodextrin or is it completely safe?

    maltodextrin in candy

    What is Maltodextrin Powder?

    Maltodextrin is a white powder that comes from starch. It can be derived from many plants, including:

    • Corn
    • Wheat
    • Potatoes
    • Rice
    • Tapioca

    The starch goes through a process called hydrolysis. This uses water, heat and acids to break down the starch into smaller carbohydrates until it becomes a flavorless white powder.
    So while maltodextrin comes from plants, calling it “natural” would be a stretch. It undergoes heavy processing to create the final product.

    Is Maltodextrin the Same as Sugar?

    No, maltodextrin is not a sugar. However, it is closely related to sugars in terms of their chemical structure and effects on the body. It behaves similarly in the body due to its rapid digestion and high glycemic index. It is widely used in the food industry for its functional properties but should be consumed in moderation, especially by individuals with specific health concerns like diabetes or digestive disorders.

    Maltodextrin Has a Higher GI Value Than Sugar

    Here’s where things get confusing.
    As I explained earlier, maltodextrin isn’t technically a sugar. However, it impacts your body in a similar way.
    Specifically, it has a very high glycemic index.

    To quickly recap, the glycemic index measures how much and how rapidly a food spikes your blood sugar levels. According to researchers, maltodextrin has a glycemic index ranging from 85 to 105.
    For comparison, table sugar has a GI value of just 65.
    This means that maltodextrin makes your blood sugar shoot up faster than pure sugar. This explains why athletes often use it for rapid energy.
    However, there’s a dark side to maltodextrin’s high GI…

    The Dangers of Maltodextrin for Diabetics

    If you have diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance, maltodextrin can be downright dangerous.

    Eating maltodextrin causes your blood glucose to spike. For most people, this isn’t a huge deal.
    But for diabetics, this sudden glucose spike can lead to life-threatening complications like:

    • Diabetic ketoacidosis
    • Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state
    • Cardiovascular disease

    This is why it’s critical for diabetics to limit dietary maltodextrin as much as possible.

    Health Risks Associated With Maltodextrin

    Aside from spiking blood sugar, maltodextrin powder comes with a few other downsides:

    Contributes to an unhealthy diet

    Maltodextrin provides virtually no nutritional value other than carbohydrates. And products like soft drinks and candy bars aren’t exactly the poster children for healthy eating.
    A diet high in packaged snacks loaded with maltodextrin sets you up for obesity, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

    Alters gut bacteria

    There’s some evidence linking maltodextrin to negative changes in gut bacteria.
    Studies suggest that maltodextrin consumption increases inflammatory bacteria populations while decreasing beneficial bacteria. This one-two punch sets the stage for intestinal inflammation and diseases.
    While more research is required to determine maltodextrin’s precise effects on gut health, current findings aren’t promising.

    maltodextrin in beverages

    Contains GMOs

    The corn used to make maltodextrin often comes from GMO crops.
    There is significant controversy around the safety of genetically modified foods. And some sources believe GMOs can negatively impact digestive health.
    While still up for debate, avoiding GMOs is straightforward enough by choosing non-GMO verified or certified organic products without maltodextrin.

    Is Maltodextrin Bad For You? It’s Complicated…

    If you have diabetes or a sensitive gut, avoiding maltodextrin is probably wise. The spike in blood sugar and potential bacterial disruption is concerning.
    However, not all researchers believe maltodextrin deserves its villain status.
    A recent evidence review published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal summarized the benefits and safety of maltodextrin.
    The authors concluded that maltodextrin is generally safe for human consumption. And classified it as moderately beneficial thanks to its low cost and energy density.
    Given the potential risks, I avoid maltodextrin whenever possible. But eating the occasional snack containing maltodextrin likely won’t cause harm.

    Healthy Alternatives to Maltodextrin

    Check out these healthy alternatives:

    • Stevia – This no-calorie sweetener has little impact on blood sugar.
    • Erythritol – Similar to stevia but has an added gut-friendly probiotic effect.
    • Saccharin Sodium – This artificial sweetener is calorie-free and does not affect blood sugar levels, making it suitable for diabetics.
    • Dextrose- A simple sugar that provides quick energy but can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.
    • Sorbitol – A sugar alcohol that has fewer calories than sugar and a lower impact on blood glucose, often used as a sugar substitute in diabetic-friendly foods.

    Swapping out maltodextrin for these substitutes lets you avoid potential problems while still enjoying sweetness and flavor.


    The debate around maltodextrin raises important questions about food regulation and labeling. Using an additive with sugar-like effects in “sugar-free” products leaves consumers in the dark. And while maltodextrin may negatively impact blood sugar and gut health, more evidence is required before making broad claims.
    With no nutritional upside beyond calories and energy, most health-conscious people should work towards limiting maltodextrin intake. But unless you have diabetes or a diagnosed digestive condition, remember the dose makes the poison. Going overboard in fear and strictly avoiding all maltodextrin could lead to unnecessary restrictions. As with most things in life, moderation and balance keep risks low while still allowing enjoyment.

    Mondstar is a leading food additives supplier, offering a comprehensive range of high-quality maltodextrin powder solutions. Contact us for more information on maltodextrin.

    Related Posts:
    1. What Is Sodium Saccharin And What Does It Do?
    2. Is Monosodium Glutamate MSG Gluten-Free?

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