Maltodextrin usually brings to mind a processed sugar added to packaged foods. However, another form of maltodextrin is a digestion-resistant dietary fiber that may promote gut health and prevent diabetes. Read on to learn more.
Maltodextrin is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide) derived from plant sources, such as rice, potato, corn or wheat .
Maltodextrin exists in either a digestible or a digestion-resistant form .
The digestible maltodextrin is a common ingredient in foods and the one associated with health dangers. Although maltodextrin is a plant extract, it is highly processed. This white powder is industrially produced by breaking down starch (with enzymes or acids), followed by purification. The final product is tasteless and soluble in water [7, 8, 1, 9].
- Provide a cheap source of energy in sports drinks
- Enhance texture or flavor
- Preserve packaged or canned foods
- Prevent ice growth in frozen foods
- Thicken liquids similar to gelatin
- Replace sugar or fat in low-calorie foods
Unlike regular maltodextrin, digestion resistant maltodextrin can be a health-enhancing substance. It is a dietary fiber produced by a chemical process that changes the bonds between the sugars, making it impossible to digest [5, 12].
Since resistant starch cannot be digested by the small intestine, it passes to the gut intact. Gut bacteria in the colon ferment it into vitamin K2 and beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate. Resistant starch also helps good bacteria grow and stay balanced .
Resistant maltodextrin promotes digestion, bowel movements, and gut health. It has powerful effects on general wellness and its ingestion has been inversely linked to diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and inflammatory conditions [5, 15, 16].
Note: For simplicity, we’ll refer to the regular, digestible maltodextrin simply as “maltodextrin” in the rest of this article while digestion-resistant maltodextrin will be referred to as “resistant maltodextrin”.
It is clear that maltodextrin and resistant maltodextrin only sound similar. However, these two sugars are completely different when it comes to their benefits and risks.
- Promoting the growth of good gut bacteria
- Improving stool weight, consistency, and bowel movements
- Reduced belly fat and body weight
- Decreased food intake
- Increased satiety hormones (glucagon-like peptide-1 and peptide YY)
- Lowered the production of the “hunger” hormone (ghrelin)
- Reduced blood sugar levels and insulin resistance
- Blocked fat absorption and enhanced the elimination of dietary fats
- Blocking the growth of cancer cells and tumors
- Decreasing endotoxins, inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress markers (TNF-a, IFN gamma, MDA)
- Increasing protective antibodies and anti-inflammatory substances (IgA, butyrate, IL-10)
Resistant starches can do wonders for your gut health, especially if you are prone to gut microbiome imbalances. In several clinical studies of over 900 people, resistant maltodextrin increased stool weight, stool consistency, and bowel movement frequency compared to placebo [19, 44, 45, 46, 42, 30].
In rats, resistant maltodextrin promoted the growth of beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacterium) and decreased harmful gut bacteria (Clostridium perfringens). In piglets, resistant it prevented ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disorder [50, 51].
As a resistant starch, this type of maltodextrin will help keep your blood sugar level stable after meals. In a meta-analysis of over 900 people, resistant maltodextrin blocked the increase of blood sugar after meals (postprandial glycemia) .
In a 12-week clinical study on 60 overweight men, resistant maltodextrin decreased blood glucose and insulin levels. It increased a weight-loss protein called adiponectin that blocks glucose production. Adiponectin is also likely to be increased in people with lectin sensitivity .
In a clinical study on 55 women with type 2 diabetes, resistant maltodextrin lowered insulin resistance. In 13 people, resistant maltodextrin reduced insulin production after meals. It also reduced blood sugar levels in a 12-week clinical study on 30 people with metabolic syndrome [36, 52, 35].
In several clinical studies of over 300 overweight people, resistant maltodextrin reduced body weight, body mass index (BMI), and body fat. In one 12-week clinical study of 30 people with metabolic syndrome, it decreased waist circumference and belly fat [31, 55, 35].
In clinical studies of over 160 overweight men, resistant maltodextrin decreased feelings of hunger, increased satiety, and reduced and food intake. In another study on 32 healthy people, it decreased levels of the “hunger” hormone (ghrelin), lowered feelings of hunger and improved satiety [31, 32, 33, 34].
The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of resistant maltodextrin for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before using resistant maltodextrin for health reasons, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.
In a 12-week clinical study of 60 overweight men, resistant maltodextrin increased HDL- cholesterol, lowered total cholesterol, LDL- cholesterol, VLDL- cholesterol, and triglycerides. Several other studies on both healthy people and those with metabolic syndrome confirmed its triglyceride-lowering benefits [39, 35, 52].
The same was found in rats, in which resistant maltodextrin blocked the increase of triglycerides after eating. In hamsters, RMD together with inulin increased HDL- cholesterol, reduced levels of all harmful fats, echoing the benefits observed in humans [52, 57].
In a clinical study 55 women with diabetes type 2, resistant maltodextrin decreased a wide range of harmful immune markers, including endotoxins, inflammatory cytokines (TNF-a, IFN gamma), and malondialdehyde (MDA) (a marker for oxidative stress). Resistant maltodextrin also increased IL-10 (Interleukin-10), an anti-inflammatory cytokine [35, 42].
No clinical evidence supports the use of resistant maltodextrin for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
Resistant starch may aid nutrient absorption and reduce the likelihood of nutrient deficiencies. Resistant maltodextrin can bring all the proven benefits of resistant starch on mineral and vitamin D levels. In rats, resistant maltodextrin improved the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc – all essential minerals needed to maintain optimal health .
In mice, resistant maltodextrin blocked the growth of breast and colon cancer cells and increased cancer cell death. In cell studies, it suppressed the growth of colon cancer cells. More research on its cancer-fighting potential is needed [40, 59, 41].
In human, animal, and cell studies, resistant maltodextrin was very safe .
- Stomach pain and fullness with high doses
- Gurgling sounds
- Diarrhea or watery stools
To avoid adverse effects and unexpected interactions, talk to your doctor before using either type of maltodextrin for health reasons.
There are quite a few clinical trials examining the effect of resistant maltodextrin on gut health and the prevention of obesity and diabetes. However, some other health benefits are supported mainly by animal and cell studies, whereas the clinical studies only have a small number of participants.
Moreover, there is insufficient research on resistant maltodextrin health risks. More research on the risk effects and health benefits of resistant maltodextrin should be encouraged.
There is no safe and effective dose of resistant maltodextrin because no sufficiently powered study has been conducted to find one. The dosage of resistant maltodextrin in clinical studies ranged from 9 – 60 g per day [35, 19, 52, 29, 33, 46].
The maximum dosage for men that did not cause diarrhea was 1 g/kg body weight, whereas women could take 1.1 g/kg body weight .