Our Position on Maltodextrin

One of the things that make CrystalNutri products special is their purity. Our flagship product Aurum10, for example, contains nothing but the highest quality fruits and vegetables, minimally processed to maintain the nutritional profile of the original ingredients and ready to eat from the spoon. However, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that we add maltodextrin to our crystal blends and single crystals. So what is maltodextrin, why is it the only additive used in any CrystalNutri product and does it have any downsides? Short answer: maltodextrin stops the crystals from sticking together; we don’t use much; and the protective effect of the concentrated natural antioxidants and phytonutrients in the crystals offsets any influence of maltodextrin on the body. Read on for more detail!

Maltodextrin: Just the facts
Let’s start with the font of all officially approved knowledge, Wikipedia : “Maltodextrin is a name shared by two different families of chemicals…The digestible maltodextrins (or simply maltodextrins) are manufactured as white solids derived from chemical processing of plant starches. They are used as food additives, which are digested rapidly, providing glucose as food energy. They are generally recognized as safe (GRAS)  for food and beverage manufacturing…The digestion-resistant maltodextrins (also called resistant maltodextrins) are defined as nutritional food additives due to their ability upon fermentation in the colon to yield short-chain fatty acids, which contribute to gastrointestinal health…[they] are considered GRAS.” We only use digestible maltodextrins at CrystalNutri, so the rest of this article will focus on those.

The maltodextrin molecule, as seen in a textbook

It’s only the USA, in fact, that uses an official definition of maltodextrins, as follows: “Maltodextrins are the dried products or purified aqueous solutions of saccharides obtained from edible starch having a dextrose equivalency of less than 20.” Without going into unnecessary detail, ‘dextrose equivalency’ is a measure of how complete the hydrolysis, or breakdown, is of a starch from a chain of sugar molecules into isolated simple sugars. Whole, unhydrolyzed starch has a DE of zero, and glucose/corn syrups have a DE of 20-95. We’ll come back to this later.

Beginning with whole starch, a process of acid/enzyme hydrolysis splits the starch into smaller sugar molecules, after which the solution is refined, evaporated and dried to create maltodextrin.

Stay awake at the back, please.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the science of maltodextrin – and really, who wouldn’t? – can dive into this paper. 

A computer-generated image of the maltodextrin molecule.

Why do we need it?
To better understand why we use maltodextrin in CrystalNutri products, we need to appreciate the properties both of our unique crystals and of digestible maltodextrin itself.

To create our crystals, we begin with raw fruit and veg, gently extract it at <40 C  and microscopically filter the resulting liquid. The liquid extract is then vacuum dried to create blocks of ‘raw’ crystals, which we later grind into the smaller crystals that end up in our jars. However, if we simply put the ground-down crystals into the jars on their own, it would present a significant problem: our customers wouldn’t be able to get the crystals out of the jars, because the crystals would be stuck together in a (useless) lump. (Cue much frantic jar-shaking and swearing.

This is where maltodextrin comes in useful. The specific properties of maltodextrin  depend on its DE value. As the DE value increases, maltodextrins become sweeter-tasting, stickier, more soluble and better at absorbing water from the atmosphere; lower-DE maltodextrins are more viscous, i.e. thicker – treacle is more viscous than water, for example – and are better at preventing large sugar-crystal formation. Our maltodextrin, with a DE value of 15, prevents the crystals from clumping together in the jar both by acting as a flow agent/anti-caking agent, and by absorbing excess water from the atmosphere.

 

Is maltodextrin safe?

The US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) certainly thinks so: it has declared maltodextrin as GRAS, or Generally Regarded as Safe.  However, health controversies continue to swirl around maltodextrin. 

What maltodextrin looks like in real life!

Maltodextrin and blood sugar

One of these concerns its effects on blood sugar. Despite its molecular structure being more like a starch than a sugar, consisting of multiple sugar molecules bonded together, maltodextrin has a high glycaemic index (GI) value of 110 – higher than pure glucose. This occurs because the chemical bonds holding the sugars together are quickly digested. Inevitably, maltodextrin causes spikes in blood sugar and insulin following ingestion. While this is clearly not a good thing under most circumstances, it has led to pure maltodextrin being used by athletes and physically active people as a rapidly absorbed and utilised source of clean energy .

Of course, CrystalNutri products are not pure maltodextrin! Rather, maltodextrin is a single additive used in small amounts in our food crystals to prevent sticking. And what are the main ingredients in our products? That’s right – pure fruits and vegetables with their antioxidant, phytochemical and vitamin content intact. The rich matrix of nature-identical nutrients contained in our crystals effectively offset any potential negative effect of maltodextrin on blood sugar. Scientific research confirms that fresh fruit intake significantly reduces fasting blood glucose , the beneficial effect of polyphenols on blood-sugar control  and the potential benefits of dietary berries  and antioxidants in type 2 diabetes.

Maltodextrin and the gut microbiome

Another potential controversy surrounding maltodextrin concerns its effects on the gut microbiome and its implications for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  Research conducted on animals and in-vitro i.e lab-based studies using tissue samples suggests that maltodextrin may damage the gut environment  by promoting the development of bacterial biofilms , among other mechanisms, thereby possibly increasing the likelihood of IBD in susceptible people.

 

It’s important to point out that this research has, so far, all been conducted on animals and isolated tissue samples, and is therefore preclinical evidence with limited application to humans in a real-life situation.  That said, we don’t disagree with the authors of this research that a plausible link exists between maltodextrin and intestinal dysbiosis just that one would need to consume large amounts of maltodextrin, over a long period of time, in a diet consisting of nutrient-poor processed food for this to occur.  And, to repeat an important point, this is the very opposite of the use context of our maltodextrin, which is a small amount as the sole additive alongside a concentrated matrix of natural fruit and vegetable antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.

 

In short, CrystalNutri products will protect your gut against dysbiosis and IBD, despite containing a little bit of maltodextrin.

 

GM?  No!

Perhaps the most significant issue surrounding maltodextrin is that most commercially utilised maltodextrin worldwide is derived from genetically modified (GM) corn.  We at CrystalNutri do not believe in the genetic modification of natural resources, so in order to ensure the highest quality of our products and the safety of our customers we sourced a GM-free maltodextrin.  We are happy to provide a copy of the manufacturer’s GM-free certificate upon request, so please get in touch if you wish.

 

We hope that this article has clarified our position on maltodextrin and addressed any worries you may have over its health effects.  We’re always happy to answer any questions that you may have, so please drop us a line if we can be of any help.

Adam Newbould-Smith

Adam Newbould-Smith

Herbalist & Naturopath

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A medicine cabinet in your kitchen cupboard! The ultimate in herbal versatility

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