Maltodextrins – the hidden sugar in processed foods

A chemically processed form of starch known as maltodextrins is being used extensively in packaged foods as a thickener, filler and preservative. Starch is broken down through several chemical and enzymatic steps to produce maltodextrins which are polysaccharides found in instant puddings and gelatins, sauces and salad dressings, baked goods, baby formulas or cereals, potato chips, yogurts, nutrition bars, sports supplements, and sugar-free sweeteners .

Advantages of maltodextrin

  • Source of instant calories ; short polymeric chains which are easily absorbed . This quality of maltodextrins make them favourable for sports persons who require instant source of glucose post exercise
  • Non-sweet tasting carbohydrate calories
  • Food manufacturers find it cheap, easily available and blends well with other ingredients.

Disadvantages of maltodextrin

  • Easily digestible maltodextrins cause rapid rise in blood sugar levels which is not required for infants and young children and not favourable for individuals with diabetes
  • Maltodextrins are usually made from corn which is a genetically modified crop. These have toxic effects on organs such as kidney, liver, pancreas, reproductive system, etc in the long term
  • They disturb the healthy microflora in the gastrointestinal tract thereby increasing risk of diseases. In experiments on mice, sugary maltodextrin were found to promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria, which damaged the intestine and increased the risk of inflammatory disease
  • Toddler formulas containing maltodextrin along with glucose syrup solids can lead to tooth decay compared to formula containing only lactose.

The modification of starch into maltodextrins was done only to impart certain sensory qualities to the commercial food products. It does not have any nutritional benefits for normal individuals other than athletes or those with compromised digestion.  Indiscriminate use of maltodextrins is definitely not advisable specially for sensitive populations such as infants and children as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.



Tan SF1, Tong HJ2, Lin XY1, Mok B2, Hong CH3. The cariogenicity of commercial infant formulas: a systematic review. Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 2016 Jun;17(3):145-56. doi: 10.1007/s40368-016-0228-x. Epub 2016 May 18


Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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