What Is Maltodextrin And Why Is It Used In Baby Formulas?


There are a lot of different ingredients in infant formula. Some of them are easy to recognize, but others may be harder to decipher. One of the most common ingredients that confuse many parents is maltodextrin. No parent wants to expose their infant to toxic ingredients that may have negative long-term effects on their health and well-being. In this post, we will go over the composition and use of maltodextrin in infant formula. 

What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a safe edible sweetener that is sourced from plants. It has a high rate of solubility, and it is very easy to digest. One of the reasons it is used most often in infant formulas is that it can be metabolized quickly and it has a low level of actual sweetness. With its high glycemic index and low sweetness rating, it works well in fluids that must be easy for infants to drink. The solubility also means that it will dissolve smoothly into infant formula without changing the texture. 

Is Maltodextrin Safe?

Maltodextrin has been used in processed food and infant formula for many years. There are no known negative side effects even when using infant food. The FDA in addition to the EU regulatory body has classified maltodextrin as being a safe food additive. It contributes to the carbohydrate count of whatever food it has been added to. Although it has a low level of actual sweetness, it is important to keep in mind that its high GI can trigger a blood sugar spike. While this does not make it unsafe, it is important for those with diabetes to be careful of foods that contain maltodextrin.

How is Maltodextrin Made?

Maltodextrin comes from wheat, corn, potato starch, or rice. It is processed into a finely milled white powder once it has been processed from its respective plant. This is an intense process that starts by cooking the starch from the plants and then adding enzymes or acids to further break down its composition. The refining process makes the powder neutral in taste and easily water-soluble. The closest thing to compare maltodextrin to would be solid corn syrup, however, the sugar content is vastly different between the two. Maltodextrin is less than 20% sugar per part post-processes while corn syrup solids must be at least 20% sugar or more per part after processing. 

Why is Maltodextrin Used in European Baby Formula?

Of all the ingredients to be found in European infant formula, this is one of the most basic. It serves a very specific task, mainly serving as a carbohydrate. Because it is highly digestible and also lacks sweetness, it is a preferred ingredient for healthy infant formulas. Due to some similarities between corn syrup solids and maltodextrin, many parents assume that it is used as a sweetener. In fact, lactose has a higher sweetness index than maltodextrin. When you add maltodextrin to the mix, it reduces the sweetness of infant formula overall. 

Lactose in all forms is naturally sweet. This is one of the reasons infants love breastmilk. Too much sweetness, however, can cause infant sugar dependence which can lead to obesity in childhood. Using maltodextrin in infant formula allows for less lactose to be used to equal a healthy mix of carbohydrates. 

Another misconception is that maltodextrin is used as a filler in place of more expensive or healthy alternatives. While it may be used to fill a gap, for example, the need for more carbohydrates, it is healthier than adding more lactose which increases the sugar content in a mixture. European infant formulas follow a very strict protocol during their formulation. There are minimum and maximum quantities of maltodextrin allowed per part. The same goes for other ingredients including vitamins, minerals, lactose, and DHA. 

Is Using Maltodextrin Really Safe In Infant Formula?

There are plenty of foods and additives that are safe for adults that should not be given to children or infants. Maltodextrin is not one of them. Earlier in the post, we explained how maltodextrin was made, as you can see, it is perfectly safe for all ages. It is a complex carbohydrate that has a very simple molecular chain. This simple chain is what makes it ideal for infants' immature digestive systems. 

There are also different qualities of maltodextrin found in food. The process used to create the powder determines the overall quality. European infant formula uses maltodextrin made from organic sources or biodynamic sources. This ensures that the maltodextrin used in the infant formula is not only safe but also pure and very high quality. Lower quality maltodextrin may be sourced from GMO plants or even those that have been exposed to toxins such as chemical fertilizers. Feeding your infant European infant formula will guarantee that the maltodextrin comes from only healthy sources. 

Why Organic & Non-GMO Certification Matters

There are several reasons why holding dynamic farming and organic farming certifications is important. The use of additives, such as maltodextrin is a prime example. The infant formula is only going to be as good as the ingredients going into it. US certifications for organic ingredients is not as strong as those offered in the EU. In fact, organic in the US doesn’t automatically mean that there are no GMOs or antibiotics used in the creation of baby formula ingredients. 

In the EU, regulations dictate that organic corn, from where most maltodextrin is sourced, must not contain or be treated with any form of toxic substances. In addition to corn, the biodynamic farming coalition, and the organic farming coalition make sure that all the ingredients and processes used to create maltodextrin and infant formula, in general, are safe. 

Final Thoughts From Mommy Formula On Maltodextrin

When it comes to infant formula, maltodextrin offers plenty of benefits with very few negative side effects. Although maltodextrin has a high glycemic index, a low sweetness factor prevents it from becoming an addictive taste. European infant formulas made from organic and dynamically farmed ingredients are also much healthier for your infant overall. If you have any questions regarding maltodextrin or any other ingredients in EU infant formulas, we are here to help.

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