There have been a number of scientific studies over the past several years linking various food additives with digestive problems. This time the culprit is once again believed to be a commonly used additive called, ‘maltodextrin’. The health conditions linked with this food chemical are potentially serious (inflammatory bowel disease [IBD] and Crohn’s disease, for example) and though this is not the first study to link maltodextrin to gastrointestinal problems, we look forward to future replication studies to see whether this link continues to be substantiated under a variety of conditions and test subjects.
Researcher Links Digestive Problems to Food Additive
It’s estimated that more than 1.4 million Americans have some form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). That number has dramatically increased over the past 50 years, and scientists now think they know why…
Reviewing the results of studies done in livestock to determine the effect of different dietary components on animal health, Christine McDonald, PhD, a researcher in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pathobiology at the Lerner Research Institute and her team zeroed in on one additive in particular: maltodextrin.
Maltodextrin is a starch-derived food additive that is commonly used as a thickening, coating or filling agent. It’s found in thousands of food items including sports drinks, artificial sweeteners, potato chips, salad dressing and beer…
Through her research, Dr. McDonald discovered that maltodextrin alters intestinal bacteria to make them “stickier,” which may present challenges to a normal digestive process, let alone someone with IBD.
In people with IBD, the bacteria in the gut sticks more to the surface of the epithelium – the layers of cells that line the intestines. In healthy people, the bacteria is prevented from sticking to the epithelium because the cells make a layer of mucous, a thick gel-like substance. People with IBD have a much thinner mucous layer or are missing it altogether.
In another recent study, her lab found that maltodextrin promotes survival of salmonella, a bacterium commonly associated with food poisoning. Her research also indicates that maltodextrin can increase the amount of bacteria on the surface of the gut epithelium, as well as decrease antibacterial defenses, creating the ideal environment for developing Crohn’s disease.
Where Found: This sulfite-containing, frequently corn-based, industrialized food additive is used as a thickening/bulking agent/emulsifier and is present in a wide variety of processed foods including those containing artificial sweeteners, canned foods, soups, salad dressings, gravies, puddings, gelatin, dessert mixes, sauces, syrups, ‘health drinks’ and weight-loss shakes and products, candies, soft drinks and flavored beverages. May also be present in organic foods and foods labeled as having “all natural ingredients”. May be present in conventional, fast food, and “health food” restaurant food items. See “MSG/Monosodium Glutamate”
Red Flags: Those people diagnosed with celiac disease, diabetes, hypoglycemia, sensitivities to sulfites, or allergic reactions to corn or other base starches may be advised by health care professionals to avoid processed foods and products containing this additive. This additive often contains or produces processed free glutamic acid and tends to stimulate glutamate in the body in a process similar to MSG. Individuals who experience adverse reactions to MSG may also have adverse reactions to this additive. See “MSG/Monosodium Glutamate”. Reported reactions by those sensitive to this food additive include stomach pain/digestive problems (incl. diarrhea, bloating, gas), headaches, migraines, heart rhythm irregularities, panic attacks, fatigue, swelling/edema, weight gain, skin reactions (incl. itching, hives, rash), excessive thirst, throat or tongue swelling, difficulty swallowing, rhinitis, and breathing difficulties/asthma attacks. May also be source for genetically modified organism (GMO) and is a known hidden source of gluten which can trigger serious adverse reactions in people with certain autoimmune disorders.
Source: Our book, The Food Hacker’s Handbook: A Guide to Breaking the Processed Foods and Additives Addiction