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Potato Maltodextrin, a thickener with no health risks

Maltodextrin is a common thickening agent which is prepared by deriving the starch from corn, wheat, rice or potatoes. Marketed mainly in the form of dry powder, it is creamy white in color and gets digested and absorbed easily. Potato maltodextrin is derived from potato starch and commonly used as a filler or thickener. Being inexpensive, it is used as an artificial sweetener in various fruit juices and sodas. Another common use is found in beer where it is used to increase its specific gravity. In the packaged cereals, sodas, candy, salad dressings, sugar substitutes, desserts and various other foods, the common ingredient is Potato Maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin - the food additive is a thickening agent which is mixed with a number of foods just the way sugars and corn syrups are added. Products like cereals, potato chips and powdered drinks get a slight sweet taste due to the presence of maltodextrin.

Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate consisting of chains of glucose. In the United States, it is mainly made from corn, rice or potato starch. Maltodextrin is derived by a process called hydrolysis which involves cooking starch in presence of enzymes or acids. It is usually a white powder and almost flavorless or slightly sweet.

Uses of potato maltodextrin:

For creating bulk: Maltodextrin is a preferred choice to thicken and create bulk in foods having a gelatine or liquid texture. Potato Maltodextrin makes salad dressings or instant pudding, thicker. Several other food items including desserts, protein shakes, canned fruits, instant pudding and sauces contain maltodextrin because of the same purpose. As a thickener or filler maltodextrin is a favored choice because it is inexpensive and does not change the flavor of the processed foods significantly.

For crystallizing sugars: Maltodextrin is a common substance present in artificial sweeteners. By acting as a binding agent, it aids in creating the crystal-like sugars which are kept in packets. Maltodextrin is a saccharide with chemical properties similar to that of a sugar, yet it does not taste sweet.

For drying of food: Maltodextrin is able to turn liquid or oily substance into powders. Because of its drying effect on food, Potato maltodextrin can be added to substances such as pudding to convert it into a crystal-like, dry substance which with the addition of a liquid, can be changed to a thickened mixture.

Health benefits of maltodextrin: A big advantage of maltodextrin is, it is digested and absorbed easily. Therefore, some doctors suggest using maltodextrin along with fructose while exercising to get a constant release of energy. For recovery after a workout, whey protein and maltodextrin combination is often recommended. In many vitamins and pharmaceuticals, too maltodextrin is used as a binder, in the form of pill and powder, both. As a source of fast absorbed carbohydrates, it is commonly present in many sports drinks.

Potato maltodextrin which is extracted from the safe sources like potatoes is gluten-free and safe for moderate consumption. Such Potato or corn based products should be consumed by those suffering from Celiac disease in small quantities. On the other hand, when added to junk foods, excessive Maltodextrin consumption may cause damage to normal health in various ways. Potato maltodextrin which is a gluten-free food is a preferred choice for consumption.