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Maltodextrin. What's it made of?

Note from Carolyn:
This is a great reminder that just because you can buy a product, it doesn't mean it's good for you.
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I've been avoiding maltodextrin for a couple of years now, ever since I discovered that the root of my various ailments was gluten intolerance.

Now, you might be asking: Isn't it made from corn or potatoes?

Usually, yes. The FDA's regulations state that maltodextrin is made from corn starch, rice starch, or potato starch. Sometimes, though, it's made from wheat starch. On FDA-regulated foods, you'll see "wheat" on the label if this is the case. But if the food is regulated by the USDA, you're out of luck.

Research on maltodextrin recently caught my eye for an entirely different reason, however. If you have Crohn's disease and you find your condition getting worse, maltodextrin could be partly to blame.

The thing is, maltodextrin is just about everywhere. It's used as a thickener or filler in all kinds of processed foods like sauces, desserts, and puddings to name just a few. It's also an ingredient in a couple of nasty artificial sweeteners... Splenda and Equal.

And, it turns out if you're doing everything right and you're not sure why you're not feeling better, there's a good chance that the hidden maltodextrin in your food might have something to do with it.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute uncovered something pretty worrying about this common food additive. It may make the inflammation of Crohn's disease worse by spurring the growth of E. coli in the small intestine.

The researchers found that in the presence of Equal or Splenda the E. coli became stickier. And, naturally, the stickier bacteria are the more likely they are to stick to the walls of your intestines. But this didn't happen when the researchers grew the E. coli with the maltodextrin-free sweetener stevia.

In other words, if you tend to eat a lot of packaged and processed foods, you could be fueling the very thing that's making you sicker.

The researchers cautioned that the tests were conducted in the lab, not in people, so they aren't suggesting that people with the disease avoid maltodextrin. And of course the artificial sweetener industry was quick to chime in with a reminder that the findings shouldn't change how the sweeteners are made or sold.

But why not cut maltodextrin from your diet and see if your condition improves? And you'll get the added bonus of eating less processed foods, which is always a good thing.

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