Maltodextrin has been found to change the gut microbiome by killing the good bacteria

Maltodextrin is a common UPF food ingredient, but what does it do to the body?

  • May 21, 2024
  • Running
  • Christophe

TL;DR – among other things, Maltodextrin has been found to change the gut microbiome by killing the good bacteria. Those at risk of developing autoimmune or digestive illnesses should avoid it. It also causes big spikes in Insulin which is dangerous for diabetics and may contribute to the cause of the condition. Its inclusion within the list of ingredient signals that the food it’s in is Ultra Processed Food (UPF) so should therefore be avoided as a matter of course

Maltodextrin has been found to change the gut microbiome by killing the good bacteria

What is Maltodextrin?

If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients list on a UPF food you may well have seen maltodextrin listed, but what exactly is it and is it bad for us? Maltodextrin is a sweetener and carbohydrate with no nutritional value that is a common ingredient in many so called ‘health’ bars, fitness supplements, biscuits, breads, cereals, pre-made pasta meals, sauces, and soft drinks. UPF food producers say they include it as a thickener or filler to increase the volume of food. It’s also a preservative that increases shelf-life.

But it’s normally made from natural ingredients so it must be OK, right?

At first glance you might think it’s OK as it’s commonly made from natural sources such as GMO corn, rice, potato or wheat, but it’s actually a highly processed ingredient. It’s made by hydrolysis which involves cooking starch before adding acids or enzymes (such as heat-stable bacterial alpha-amylase) to further break the starches into smaller pieces. This creates a white powder consisting of sugar molecules that are water-soluble and have a neutral taste.

Are there any health benefits to Maltodextrin?

Irritatingly, as with a lot of UPF ingredients, the evidence for or against Maltodextrin in terms of its effects on health are confused by some apparent health benefits for certain people suffering from illnesses. For example, because it’s very easily and quickly absorbed by the gut, it can be useful for those suffering from chronic hypoglycaemia, and the digestion-resistant form of the chemical (Fibersol-2) appears to have anti-tumour properties inhibiting colorectal cancer cell growth. However, those with type 2 diabetes might be best avoiding this ingredient. With a glycaemic index higher than table sugar, it’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream causing a spike in blood sugar.

What are the dangers to health from Maltodextrin?

Evidence against Maltodextrin though is increasing. The current advice is that if it is ingested, it should be balanced with fibre and protein to slow down the absorption into the blood. Advice like this though changes over time, especially as its negative effects on health increasingly appear to be much wider ranging and more harmful than simply increasing blood sugar levels.

For example, a PLoS ONE study from 2012 concluded that Maltodextrin can change your gut bacteria composition and inhibit the growth of probiotics in your digestive system, making you more susceptible to diseases. The same study concluded that this can increase the growth of bacteria such as E-Coli and is associated with auto-immune illnesses such as Chron’s Disease.

In 2019 a study titled ‘Impact of Food Additives on Gut Homeostasis’ concluded that Maltodextrin’s effects can include “impairing mucus release and increasing host susceptibility to colitis”. Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a proposed digestive condition where a reduction in the mucus the lining to the gut allows bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream. Symptoms include diarrhoea, bloating & fatigue. There are currently no standard treatments for this condition, although lifestyle and diet changes may help.

In summary

In summary, this is an ingredient that I certainly avoid. Besides the fact that its inclusion within the list of ingredients is a signal that the food is UPF, its negative effects on health – in particular the digestive system – increasingly appear to be more negative. The inclusion of this ingredient doesn’t benefit the consumer as there are many natural alternatives to any of the reasons that food producers say its included.


Impact of Food Additives on Gut Homeostasis –

The Dietary Polysaccharide Maltodextrin Promotes Salmonella Survival and Mucosal Colonization in Mice –

Crohn’s Disease-Associated Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli Adhesion Is Enhanced by Exposure to the Ubiquitous Dietary Polysaccharide Maltodextrin –

What to know about leaky gut syndrome –