The Ultimate Guide to Maltodextrin [2023]

The Ultimate Guide to Maltodextrin [2023]

What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a common food additive that is used to improve texture and flavour whilst extending a product's shelf life. It is used in a variety of industries such as the food industry and pharmaceuticals. Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide derived from starch. It has a slightly sweet taste and is a water-soluble white powder that is made from corn, potato, wheat or rice.

Why Would You Choose Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a fast-digesting carbohydrate so it’s often included in sports drinks and snacks to give athletes a quick boost of energy.

Studies have shown that consuming carbohydrates during and after exercise can reduce protein breakdown, a must for maintaining muscle protein.

Maltodextrin does not use as much water to digest as some other carbohydrates so you get your quick energy boost without becoming more dehydrated. This is one of the reasons that we chose it for recuperol.

Many customers have commented on the great taste and texture of recuperol and, despite the small quantity in each sachet, maltodextrin does play a part in that.

Maltodextrin-electrolyte solutions, like recuperol, are proven to rehydrate you faster than standard electrolyte solutions.

As well as the delicious taste and texture, Maltodextrin is gluten-free and dairy-free, another reason why we included it in recuperol.

What about the High GI of Maltodextrin?

Lots of people mistakenly think that the GI (glycaemic index, also spelled “glycemic”) value of a food should be used to decide whether it is “good” or “bad” for you in terms of causing an increase in blood sugar levels. The three categories are Low (GI of 55 or less), Medium (56-59) and High (70 or more). The problem with this measurement is that a more important factor in raising blood sugar levels is actually how much available carbohydrate (ie net carbs/carbs minus the fibre) has been consumed. A better indicator of the effects of food on blood sugar levels is the GLYCAEMIC LOAD (GL). This is a formula that corrects the GI by including how much carbohydrate is involved. A Low GL is 10 or less, Medium is 11-19 and High GL is 20 or more.

Let’s look at recuperol and its carbs. Recuperol has maltodextrin and a tiny quantity of other carbs, the whole total amounting to 2.94g per sachet. The reported GI for maltodextrin ranges between 85-105 (categorised as a high GI) but giving a tiny GL for recuperol of only 2.5-3.1. Remember that a low GL value is 10 or less, so this is a very low GL, which means that recuperol will not greatly increase blood glucose levels, even if, for example, a few sachets were taken at one time. To put the numbers into context, we could compare recuperol with a ripe, medium-sized banana. With 28g of available carbs and a GI of 51, this banana’s GL is 14, still only viewed as a Medium value. Recuperol wins again!

Our cells use fuel such as glucose to give us energy. When we eat carbohydrates, most of them get broken down into glucose which goes into the bloodstream. The appearance of glucose in the blood after eating is called the Glycaemic Response (Glycaemic just means glucose in the blood). Increased glucose in the blood then triggers the production of a hormone called insulin. If we need energy, the insulin helps glucose to move from the bloodstream into the cells and if we don’t, the glucose gets stored away to be used later. Diabetes is a problem with the production of insulin or the body’s sensitivity to it. It means that there is a problem with getting the glucose out of the blood, leading to increased blood sugar levels which can cause serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

In 1981, in an attempt to help diabetics choose what foods to eat and avoid, a system called the “Glycaemic Index” (GI) was devised. This ranked foods according to how quickly they increase the level of glucose in your blood. People fasted for 12 hours then ingested 50g of glucose to see how long it took to appear in their blood. Their blood sugar was measured for two hours after they ate. Glucose was given an arbitrary GI value of 100. Then they ingested different foods containing 50g of available carbohydrates (that means minus the fibre because this is not digested but passes through the body) and compared this to the glucose measurements. Foods were categorised as Low, Medium and High GI:

Glycaemic index categories

Foods with a high GI, like white bread, are rapidly digested and cause considerable fluctuations in blood sugar. Foods with a low GI, like porridge, are digested more slowly, prompting a more gradual rise in blood sugar. You might automatically think that high GI foods are bad and low GI foods are good, but it’s not as simple as that and the following examples show this:

Glycaemic index of everyday foods

You’ll see that milk chocolate has a low GI and watermelon has a high GI. How can that be? Well, the GI isn’t the best indicator of what’s a healthy food for a few reasons:

  • The GI value is based on a portion that contains 50g of carbohydrate but this is rarely the amount typically eaten (there is 2.8g of maltodextrin in a recuperol sachet).
  • It is based on an empty stomach without any other type of food
  • The GI also doesn’t take account of the kind of food, how ripe it is, how it was stored, cooked or processed, all of which can change the GI.
  • There are lots of other factors that affect the GI of a food so it can vary from person to person and even in a single individual from day to day.

The number of grams of available carbohydrates in a food can have a bigger impact on blood sugar levels than the GI does. So to correct for potentially misleading GI values, a new form of comparison was devised to at least deal with the issue of portion size. This is called the Glycaemic Load (GL):

Glycaemic load calculation

Like the GI, the GL is categorised as Low, Medium and High:

Glycaemic load categories

The Glycaemic Load (GL) in action!

Let’s look at the GI and GL of 6 strawberries.

Each has 0.5g carbs so that’s a total of 3g carbs.

The GI is 40 so the GL for the 6 strawberries is (40) x (3/100) = 1.2

Here’s a list of the GI and GL of some other foods to give you an idea:

Glycaemic Load of common foods

You can see from the above table that the GL of recuperol is very low per sachet, even if we take the highest known GI value for maltodextrin of 105.

Common Questions About Maltodextrin

Is Maltodextrin Vegan?

Yes! Maltodextrin is 100% Vegan. This is because it’s a carbohydrate made from starch and tends to come from plant sources such as corn or wheat.

Where does maltodextrin come from?

Generally, maltodextrin is made from corn or wheat but it can also be produced from potatoes, tapioca and rice. In the USA, maltodextrin is usually made from corn but in the UK and EU, maltodextrin tends to be made from wheat.

What is maltodextrin made of?

Maltodextrin is made of glucose molecules that are joined together. This is known as a polysaccharide (”poly” means “many” and “saccharide” stands for “sugar”). As we have explored above, maltodextrin derives from plant-based starches such as corn, wheat, tapioca, rice or potato.

Is maltodextrin wheat-free?

Maltodextrin is a gluten-free ingredient. Despite maltodextrin commonly deriving from wheat, it is safe for people with Coeliac disease because during processing, the gluten is removed.

Is maltodextrin sweet?

Maltodextrin is only slightly sweet, which may come as a surprise as it is made up of sugar molecules. The strength of the sweetness is so small that it can be regarded as almost neutral or flavourless.

Is maltodextrin safe?

Maltodextrin is safe to consume. It is approved by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the relevant authorities in other countries. Maltodextrin can be taken frequently without any side effects and is a popular additive in a wide variety of food products. 

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