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Maltodextrin: The Sneaky Sweetener

Orange Icon  Maltodextrin: The Sneaky Sweetener

Orange Icon  Maltodextrin: The Sneaky Sweetener

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Food corporations are sneaky.

As we've grown more informed about the consequences of ingesting large amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners, they've come up with new sweeteners that are just as detrimental - if not more so - to staying healthy and achieving our weight-loss goals.

One of these sweeteners is maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin a "complex carbohydrate" that...

In fact, maltodextrin is so contrary to dropping pounds that it's actually included in many of the weight-gaining supplements favored by bodybuilders!

Maltodextrin Causes Weight Gain

Maltodextrin is derived from corn, rice, or potatoes. Although it is technically a polysaccharide (a sugar formed by the combination of multiple sugars), it is officially classified as a carbohydrate. It is often found in processed foods, either as a fat-free sweetener or as a thickening agent in products like pudding and salad dressing.

So why is maltodextrin spread across so many health message boards? Well, it can be hugely helpful for bodybuilders and professional and performance athletes. Because maltodextrin is almost immediately digested by the body, ingesting it leads to a spike in blood-sugar levels and provides an instant jolt of energy that athletes can use to power through workouts. Additionally, maltodextrin can be used to enhance recovery after a particularly tough training session.

This summer, with the Olympics captivating the world, we witnessed a lot of extraordinary athleticism. But it's safe to assume that most of us won't be training for the hurdles or a decathlon anytime soon. And for people who aren't hardcore athletes, there are two excellent reasons to avoid adding maltodextrin to your diet.

  1. Maltodextrin breaks the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a scale (0-100) that measures how quickly a particular food causes an increase in blood sugar. Glucose, the food against which all other foods are measured on the GI scale, has a score of 100. Maltodextrin, on the other hand, scores between 105-137, depending on the amount you use. That means that the carbs in maltodextrin are almost instantaneously converted into sugar that then enters the bloodstream. This isn't a problem - and may even be a benefit - for endurance athletes, or during a particularly strenuous workout, but using maltodextrin at other times almost ensures that it will be stored in your body as fat.
  2. You're probably already getting hidden maltodextrin in your diet. Since maltodextrin can be used as a thickening agent and as a "sugar-free" sweetener, chances are that unless you're eating an entirely natural, raw diet (including making your own salad dressing), you're already consuming some amount of maltodextrin. It even pops up in otherwise healthy foods, such as protein drinks. It's also used as a gluten alternative in gluten-free foods. Considering how quickly maltodextrin is stored in the body as fat, you should limit your consumption of it to as close to zero as possible.