The other day a friend and I were munching on tortilla chips at her house when she began to develop a funny feeling in her throat. The start of what seemed to be an allergic reaction. She took something for it immediately, but the situation caused me to jot down the ingredients that might have caused her throat to swell. The one she pondered about was maltodextrin. I promised to look into it for my blog, so here it is.
What is maltodextrin?
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate made from rice, corn, or potato starch, though it can also be derived from barley or wheat. First, the starch is cooked down, then an acid or enzyme is added to further break down the starch. It’s used as either a sweetener or an inexpensive thickener or filler. It’s found in sugar substitutes such as Splenda and Equal. It’s also found in salad dressing, pudding, cereal, snack food, sauce, and canned fruit. It’s used as a binding agent in medication.
Is it similar to sugar?
Maltodextrin has a higher glycemic index than table sugar and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. One caveat: there is a type of maltodextrin that is called “starch resistant maltodextrin.” This has a lower glycemic index and doesn’t cause the huge spike in blood sugar levels. But the majority of food containing maltodextrin is not starch resistant.
Is it safe for consumption?
The FDA considers maltodextrin to be “Generally Recognized As Safe.” (GRAS for short.) It’s supposedly easily digested.
Are there some people who should avoid maltodextrin?
People with celiac disease may be unable to consume maltodextrin, depending on the source from which it’s made. If you have celiac disease, it would be prudent to stay away from products that contain maltodextrin unless they are labeled gluten free.
People with Type 2 Diabetes should avoid products that contain maltodextrin because it causes a spike in blood sugar and can affect insulin levels.
Maltodextrin has also been found to cause heart palpitations and chest pain in some people. If you discover this to be the case, see a health practioner.
Some women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom) should avoid foods with a high glycemic index, therefore it would be a good idea to avoid products with maltodextrin.
Here’s something of interest: maltodextrin is sometimes used by bodybuilders to help increase energy during exercise and to gain weight. Gain weight? Hm. Also, maltodextrin can increase LDL, or the “bad cholesterol” in your body. Those who have allergies to wheat and corn may have a reaction that may include (and is not limited to) rashes, heavy sweating, and difficulty breathing. So although the FDA regards maltodextrin as GRAS, it can potentially harmful to particular individuals.
Although I can’t be positive maltodextrin is the cause of my friend’s allergic reaction, it certainly could be another reason why my cholesterol is high, or why people with glucose intolerance have stomach problems after consuming this additive. At any rate, I learned something new. It seems that America uses an awful lot of different types of emulsifiers for our food products. And it seems we are becoming an unhealthier nation for it.