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name of the term : Maltodextrin

Short introduction

  • Maltodextrin is a glucose polymer. It is usually composed of a mixture of chains that vary from 3–20 glucose units long.
  • Maltodextrin is classified in terms of dextrose equivalent (DE).
    • The higher the DE value, the shorter the glucose chains, the higher the sweetness and the higher the solubility.
    • Maltodextrin scores between 3 and 20 on the DE scale. For this reason, maltodextrin refers to a family of products, instead of a specific product.
    • Above DE 20, it is classified as glucose syrup and <10 DE as dextrin.
    • Maltodextrin can be enzymatically derived from any starch. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis: enzymes break the glucose chains in starch molecules into shorter chains (similar to the process of digestion in the body).
    • This process continues until the required DE value is reached.
    • Their DE controls the properties of maltodextrin, which change with the degree of hydrolysis.
  • Depending on the extent of hydrolysis (how far this process is continuous), the product can vary from a non-sweet starch to small chains of glucose units that are sweet.
  • Maltodextrin is a non-sweet starch hydrolysate (very little or no sweetness).

Main natural sources

  • Maltodextrin does not exist in natural food sources but is produced from plant starches e.g. from wheat, corn, rice and potato.

Main function

  • Source of energy: 1 g of carbohydrates (e.g. maltodextrin) provides 4 kcal (17 kJ).
    • In the digestive tract, maltodextrin is broken down into separate glucose units that can be absorbed through the intestinal lining and transported, by the bloodstream, to various tissues and organs and used as energy.
  • Maltodextrin does not taste sweet. Sweet sugars are likely to erode tooth enamel and a sweeter taste may stimulate overeating and a lifetime preference for sweet foods (influencing factors in childhood obesity).
  • Maltodextrin is easily digestible by the young infant, even during a diarrhoeal episode.
  • Maltodextrin is used in formulas for infants and children as a (partial) replacement for lactose, such as in HOCHDORF formulas for older children (>1 year). These formulas contain less lactose to prevent complaints caused by a possible decline in lactase activity.
    • It is also used in special formulas e.g. in low lactose or lactose-free formulas for infants and children with a lactase deficiency (who cannot tolerate lactose).
  • Maltodextrin contributes to a low osmolarity of a formula. Osmolarity is a measure for the concentration of a solution (number of particles, nutrients) – it indicates solute strength.
    • The osmolarity of a formula plays a role if there is decreased tolerance of the gastrointestinal tract. During episodes of gastroenteritis, for example, when the gastrointestinal tract is impaired (and the infant suffers from lactose intolerance), a formula with a low osmolarity is important to control the fluid balance. Hyper-osmolar solutions cause large amounts of water transfer to the intestines, for example, and lead to swelling, cramps, and diarrhoea.

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