Maltodextrin - An overview of risks, benefits and regulations
Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate commonly used as an ingredient in processed foods, supplements, and medications. It is a white powder that is easily digestible and has a slightly sweet taste. Maltodextrin is made by breaking down starch, usually from corn, rice, or potatoes, into shorter chains of glucose molecules. The resulting powder is used as a thickener, filler, or sweetener in various products.
Maltodextrin is also commonly found in baby formula. It is used as a source of carbohydrates, which are essential for providing energy and supporting growth and development in infants. However, the use of maltodextrin in baby formula is regulated, and there are specific types of maltodextrin that are approved for use in EU baby formula.
EU regulations for use of maltodextrin
The EU regulations require that baby formulas contain at least 30% lactose, the primary carbohydrate found in breast milk. Maltodextrin can only be used as a secondary carbohydrate source, as long as it meets certain requirements. Only maltodextrin derived from corn is permitted, and it must have a minimum dextrose equivalent (DE) value of 10 and a maximum DE value of 20. The DE value refers to the degree of hydrolysis of the starch used to produce the maltodextrin, with higher DE values indicating more complete hydrolysis and a higher glucose content.
Differences between EU and US regulations for use of maltodextrin
The use of maltodextrin in baby formula is regulated differently in the EU and the US. While the EU has stricter regulations regarding the use of carbohydrates in baby formula, the US allows for more flexibility in the use of various types of carbohydrates, including maltodextrin.
In the EU, baby formula manufacturers are only allowed to use specific types of carbohydrates, including lactose, glucose, maltose, and maltodextrins derived from corn. The use of other carbohydrate sources, such as corn syrup or sucrose, is not permitted. Additionally, the EU sets specific maximum levels for the amount of carbohydrates that can be present in baby formula.
On the other hand, the US regulations are less restrictive when it comes to the types of carbohydrates that can be used in baby formula. The US FDA allows for the use of a wide range of carbohydrate sources in baby formula, including maltodextrin, corn syrup, sucrose, and more. There are no specific maximum levels set for the amount of carbohydrates in baby formula.
The differences in regulations between the EU and the US are largely due to different approaches to regulating food additives. The EU takes a precautionary approach to food additives, meaning that new additives must be proven safe before they can be used in food products. In contrast, the US generally takes a more permissive approach, allowing for the use of food additives until they are proven to be unsafe.
Why is it a commonly found ingredient in baby formula ?
The use of maltodextrin in baby formula can provide several benefits. First, it is a readily available source of carbohydrates, which are essential for providing energy and supporting growth and development in infants. Maltodextrin is also easily digestible, which means that it is less likely to cause digestive issues or discomfort in infants. Additionally, maltodextrin is a relatively inexpensive ingredient, which can help to keep the cost of baby formula more affordable for families.
Health risks associated with maltodextrin
The main concern is the impact on blood sugar levels. Maltodextrin is a high-glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate, which means that it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. This can be a concern for infants who have a family history of diabetes or who are at risk of developing diabetes themselves.
It's important to note, however, that the amount of maltodextrin typically found in baby formula is relatively small, and is unlikely to cause any significant health problems. Additionally, the EU's strict regulations mandating a minimum and maximum DE value for maltodextrin mitigate the health risks by ensuring a safe and nutritionally complete glucose content.
Maltodextrin is a common ingredient in baby formula that serves as a source of carbohydrates. It is regulated differently in the EU and the US, with the EU having stricter regulations regarding the use of carbohydrates in baby formula. Potential health risks associated with maltodextrin are mitigated due to strict regulations.