The process of formulating a supplement for the ever expanding wellness industry was something completely foreign to us when we first began designing and manufacturing our product, Resilience. Although Australia has some of the highest standards for food and supplement manufacturing, the path to understanding ingredients, process, and labelling was not without its grey areas or rabbit holes.
Which is where we first came across maltodextrin.
Essentially maltodextrin is a processed and refined starch originating from foods such as corn, potato, tapioca, wheat or rice. Due to its ability to easily dissolve in water it is a popular choice for supplement and food companies to enhance the flavour and texture of products, improve their shelf life, or combine with natural sweeteners with low molecular weights e.g. thaumatin.
As Naturopaths it was important for us to create a clean and therapeutically beneficial formula (more on this below). Because we wished to use thaumatin to sweeten our product we discussed with our manufacturer alternatives to maltodextrin. Fortunately our manufacturer was extremely receptive to our requests and substituted maltodextrin for glycine, a calming amino acid. Although this ingredient substitution came at a financial expense, the price wasn’t as high as it would have been if we lost our integrity along the way.
So why should we avoid maltodextrin?
- Maltodextrin is made from some of the most genetically modified and/or highly sprayed crops in the word today e.g. GMO corn.
- It is a simple carbohydrate with no nutritional value.
- It has a higher glycaemic index (GI) than refined white table sugar.
- It spikes blood sugar and insulin levels quickly leading to energy highs/lows, blood sugar irregularities, and increased risk of metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.
- It increases the growth of harmful gut bacteria.
- It promotes gut inflammation and damages the integrity of the gut lining promoting what is commonly referred to as ‘leaky gut’.
- By displacing the gut microbiome and causing physical stress to the gut wall it increases risk of allergies, autoimmunity, mood disorders and other systemic health conditions linked to gut health.
Avoiding purchasing products with maltodextrin is easy when it is clearly written within the ingredient list. The issue however is that its listing isn’t necessarily always mandatory. Supplement and food companies can use maltodextrin as a ‘compounding ingredient’, and compounding ingredients aren’t legally required to be listed on the label if they make up less than 5% of the final product. Within the health supplement industry manufacturers commonly mix maltodextrin in with natural sweeteners such as thaumatin. As a result a company may solely list thaumatin as an ingredient on the label without needing to mention maltodextrin.
It is important to understand that just because something is marketed to you as ‘healthy’ or ‘clean’ doesn’t necessarily mean it is, and that transparency doesn’t necessarily equate to profit for some businesses. The sad reality is you could be consuming a supplement or food that has been marketed to improve digestive health, when it fact due to the presence of maltodextrin, it is doing the complete opposite within your body.
We found the process of product formulation and manufacturing extremely eye opening when creating Resilience. It is our hope that is post can shed a small amount of light on the issues faced in the natural health industry as it continues to mesh itself more into the mainstream market. As Naturopaths we celebrate the increased acceptance of natural health within our society, however recognise that this also brings with it a number of challenges. To avoid consuming maltodextrin we recommend to always check the label or ingredient list on the website of your product, purchase from businesses that are authentic and transparent in their message, and if in doubt call up and ask the necessary questions for yourself.