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Maltodextrin:
The hidden bitterness in sugar substitutes

Most experts believe that the main culprit behind the world's obesity statistics today is sugar. Sugar is the sweet additive that makes that slice of cake taste heavenly and that lick of ice-cream divine. The bitter fact is that sugar is a calorie heaper and is needed by the body only in small doses. However, in a country in which there is a festival every month and where festivals are synonymous with eating and gifting sweets, excess sugar consumption has become a part of our food habits and our bloodstreams. In earlier days, when lifestyles were active, this was not a problem… however with today's deskbound jobs and sedentary habits, excess of sugar is no longer advisable and the lumps that you add in your tea can go a long way in making your figure lumpy. Added sugar is better avoided because it can make the calories mount in an alarming manner. If you cannot resist the sweet appeal, sugar substitutes might seem like the answer to your prayer. Sugar substitutes are alternatives that impart sweetness without loading on the calories. There are several choices available in the market like saccharin, sucralose, aspartame etc. Sugar substitutes can be of prime use to two classes of people who need to avoid sugar: the calorie watchers and the diabetics.

However are all sugar substitutes really sweet news? Artificial sweeteners are intensely sweet… so much so that even a pinch imparts sweetness equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar. Hence some manufacturers blend them with filling agents like maltodextrin.


What is Maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a starch-derived additive which is added to a Zero calorie artificial sweetener to increase bulk. However the bitter truth is that even if the actual sugar substitute has a zero calorie count, maltodextrin does not. Moreover, maltodextrin has a hidden danger…it has a high GI value (glycemic index) which can lead to blood glucose spikes.


What is GI?

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels. The higher the GI, the faster and bigger is the corresponding insulin spike. It is important that whatever sugar substitute you choose should have a low glycaemic index as compared to sugar to make it a healthier option. This matters intensely if you are a diabetic or a pre-diabetic because frequent glucose spikes can twist your insulin response and may put a load on your blood sugar regulatory mechanism and distort your glucose levels instead of regulating them.

The irony will be that the sugar substitute you are trusting to cut down on your sugar intake and help manage your glucose levels better is itself becoming a cause of glucose spikes and can elevate your problems rather than alleviate them. Maltodextrin should be wholly and soulfully avoided by you if you are a pre-diabetic or a diabetic. Be sure to read the label of your sugar substitute powder fully and understand it well before taking it, as the manufacturer may be selling you a health hazard masked as a calorie-free sweetener.

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