Maltodextrin consists of D-glucose units connected in chains of variable length. The glucose units are primarily linked with α(1→4) glycosidic bonds. Maltodextrin is typically composed of a mixture of chains that vary from three to 17 glucose units long.
Maltodextrins are classified by DE (dextrose equivalent) and have a DE between 3 and 20. The higher the DE value, the shorter the glucose chains, the higher the sweetness, the higher the solubility, and the lower heat resistance. Above DE 20, the European Union's CN code calls it glucose syrup; at DE 10 or lower the customs CN code nomenclature classifies maltodextrins as dextrins.
Maltodextrin can be enzymatically derived from any starch. In the US, this starch is usually corn; in Europe, it is common to use wheat. In the European Union, wheat-derived maltodextrin is exempt from labeling, as set out in Annex II of EC Directive No 1169/2011. In the United States, however, it is not exempt from allergen declaration per the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, and its effect on a voluntary gluten-free claim must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis per the applicable Food and Drug Administration policy.
Maltodextrin is used to improve the mouthfeel of food and beverage products. It is also used in some snacks such as potato chips and jerky. It is used in "light" peanut butter to reduce the fat content but keep the texture. Maltodextrin is also sometimes taken as a dietary supplement by athletes in powder form, gel packets, or energy drinks.
Maltodextrin is used as an inexpensive additive to thicken food products such as infant formula. It is also used as a filler in sugar substitutes and other products. Maltodextrin has a glycemic index ranging from 85 to 105.
Maltodextrin is used as a horticultural insecticide both in the field and in greenhouses. It has no physiological or biochemical action. Its efficacy is based upon spraying a dilute solution upon the pest insects, whereupon the solution dries, blocks the insects' spiracles and causes death by asphyxiation.