Digestible maltodextrins are low-sweet saccharide polymers consisting of D-glucose units linked primarily linearly with alpha-1,4 bonds, but can also have a branched structure through alpha-1,6 bonds. Often, maltodextrins are classified by the amount of reducing sugars present relative to the total carbohydrate content; between 3 and 20 percent in the case of digestible maltodextrins. These relatively small polymers are used as food ingredients derived by hydrolysis from crops naturally rich in starch. Through advances in production technology, the application possibilities in food products have improved during the last 20 years. However, since glucose from digested maltodextrins is rapidly absorbed in the small intestine, the increased use has raised questions about potential effects on metabolism and health. Therefore, up-to-date knowledge concerning production, digestion, absorption, and metabolism of maltodextrins, including potential effects on health, were reviewed. Exchanging unprocessed starch with maltodextrins may lead to an increased glycemic load and therefore post meal glycaemia, which are viewed as less desirable for health. Apart from beneficial food technological properties, its use should accordingly also be viewed in light of this. Finally, this review reflects on regulatory aspects, which differ significantly in Europe and the United States, and, therefore, have implications for communication and marketing.
Keywords: Maltodextrins; digestion; health implications; nutritional properties; regulatory aspects.