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Maltodextrin in Baby Formula

Maltodextrin in Baby Formula

Maltodextrin is a common baby formula ingredient – but it’s also controversial. Many parents prefer to avoid maltodextrin, as it’s often seen as a filler ingredient with little nutritional value. 

Some of the European organic formulas in our store include maltodextrin, while others are maltodextrin-free. We get a lot of questions about this, as maltodextrin is so often seen as something to avoid.

So what is maltodextrin, why is it used and why is it controversial?

What is maltodextrin?

Maltodextrin is a plant-derived starch that occurs naturally in foods like corn, rice and potatoes. When the starch is extracted, it’s broken down using a process called hydrolyzation, turning it into a complex carb that provides slow-release energy. This process creates small-chain molecules, making maltodextrin easy to digest – even for tiny tummies. Unlike most carbs, it’s naturally tasteless.

Why is maltodextrin used in baby formula?

Breastmilk (like all milks) is naturally rich in lactose – a carb that provides energy and fuels growth. Formula also contains lactose, but maltodextrin is used as an additional carbohydrate in some formulas for three reasons:

  • Lactose in formula can taste sweet, but because maltodextrin is tasteless, it balances out this sweetness.
  • It helps thicken and stabilize formula, making it easier to drink. 
  • It provides energy and can help babies feel fuller for longer. 

Which formula brands use maltodextrin?

Of the European organic brands we stock, Holle and Lebenswert both use maltodextrin in some of their formulas – though neither use it in their earliest stage newborn formula (Holle Pre and Lebenswert Stage 1). 

Maltodextrin in Holle and Lebenswert gives slightly older babies and toddlers an extra-filling milk that is ideal for hungry little ones, helping them stay satisfied for longer. And of course, because these are both organic brands, the maltodextrin they use is organic too. 

Why is maltodextrin controversial – and is it deserved?

Maltodextrin is used in many common foods – including sweet, processed foods like candy and soft drinks, and as a thickener and preservative in foods like yogurts and sauces. This association with processed foods means that many see maltodextrin as nutritionally useless at best, and damaging at worst. 

It is true that maltodextrin has a high glycemic index, meaning it can spike blood sugar, but the same is true of lactose. Babies need easy-to-digest, easily absorbed carbs to give them energy – carbs are fuel. 

High GI carbs can be damaging for adults, as we tend to eat too many of them, too often, leading to blood sugar spikes and crashes. But babies need to eat little and often, and don’t overeat like adults do. 

Should you give your baby formula with maltodextrin? 

The choice is entirely yours. The organic maltodextrin used in Holle and Lebenswert isn’t harmful, and may benefit hungrier babies. But those with particularly sensitive tummies may find maltodextrin (or other forms of starch) hard to digest.

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