What's the story re maltodextrin?
September 21, 2016 9:23 AM   Subscribe

As I understand things, stevia extract may be the least harmful way to add additional sweetener to food and I've been using the liquid extract in iced tea and on berries for the past few months. On a whim I picked up the powdered version to try in baking and noticed that the package contains maltodextrin (for bulk, I assume) and stevia extract—still 0 calories. However, a quick google returns info about bodybuilders using maltodextrin as a source of quick energy and that it contains 4 calories/gram, like all carbohydrates. They can't both be right.

There are endless articles about this online, but simply sorting the credible from the quack and/or woo websites would be a project in and of itself. I figure there's a good chance that a few of you all already know what's up and can tell me in words I can understand why there's a discrepancy.
posted by she's not there to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check the "serving size". The rules allow them to round calories values <5 down to 0.
posted by ftm at 9:28 AM on September 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Fluffiness, and serving size manipulation. If you weigh the cup volume of your baking stevia, you'll find that it weighs very little compared to a cup of sugar. Then, also, a serving will weigh next to nothing, but take up more volume. Easier to measure, since US standard is volume. Most people don't have a scale, much less one accurate to milligrams, that you'd need to use stevia without bulking.

If it is similar to Splenda, it will have roughly 20 g of carbohydrates per cup, if I remember correctly.
posted by monopas at 9:31 AM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

That should be calorie values less than 0.5 can round down.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:38 AM on September 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Maltodextrin may also be present at a very low ratio to the stevia. I can't say what it used for in your product, but sometimes it is used in low concentration as a stabilizer to dry down other things (rather than for bulk as you are thinking.) Just a guess...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:39 AM on September 21, 2016

My understanding is, the alternative sweeteners are much sweeter per volume than sugar, so to make the powders they add "bulking agents" so you can use a similar volume as you would of sugar to sweeten things (e.g. you'd still use the same number of packets for your coffee).

My further understanding is they can label something as "sugar free" so long as it doesn't contain sucrose, but it can contain other sugars like glucose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, maltodextrin. Which is terrible.

See here, under the Artificial Sweeteners section, for a bit more.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2016

Serving size is 1 teaspoon/.5 grams, which explains why it's zero calories.

And if that doesn't qualify as intentionally deceptive, I don't know what would.

(Also, maltodextrin is first on the list and, no doubt, the overwhelming majority of the contents of the package.)
posted by she's not there at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, and the glycemic index of maltodextrine is very high, much higher than that of plain table sugar. So it's really not good for you as a sugar "substitute." At least you're not getting very much of it, I guess.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2016

Also, I think maltodextrin tastes bad.

I buy plain unbulked sucralose powder and use tiny measuring spoons.
posted by monopas at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2016

That should be calorie values less than 0.5 can round down.

Actually, that should be calorie values for fat, protein and carb weights less than 0.5g can round down, e.g., 10.4g carbs = 10*4 + 0.4*4 = 40cal.

next time I'll read the link before correcting someone
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:06 PM on September 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maltodextrin most definitely has calories in it. I know of it because it's used in ultra endurance sports as an easily digestible source of calories. It's very hard to stomach a lot of foods when you are doing long events, but you have to maintain a pretty relentless consumption of calories to keep going. Maltodextrin doesn't taste wonderful or anything, but it is pretty inoffensive, which is the point.

Anyways, I have a commercial mix of sport maltodextrin here that has some other stuff in it (soy protein, electrolytes, caffeine, flavoring) but all the calories are from maltodextrin. Says 1 serving = 69 grams = 270 calories = ~4g/cal.
posted by bradbane at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2016

I'm agreeing that it's used for bulking, and it would make more sense if you've ever bought pure Stevia powder. It's way sweeter than sugar and was kind of hard to measure even roughly for drinks, baking might be a challenge. Think about the liquid and then imagine measuring powder out in those amounts. The last time I bought it came in a tiny glass bottle with a tiny spoon, the whole thing had a cocaine vibe to it.
posted by bongo_x at 8:27 PM on September 21, 2016

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