Maltodextrins: a unique sugar for special pet food applications
Further research and exploration will be key to finding ways to best utilize this specialized ingredient.
Many pet foods contain sugars. Some for taste (dogs do have a “sweet tooth”), but more often for functional reasons. For example, in semi-moist foods we use sugars such as glycerol and propylene glycol, or syrups from corn or sugar beets as humectants. There is another class of sugars that are used extensively in the human foods industry, but seldom in pet foods, that might provide benefit under special food and nutritional circumstances. These sugars are the maltodextrins.
Maltodextrins: an overview
Maltodextrins are a hydrolyzed sugar of limited molecular chain length originating from various starches like corn, oats, rice, potato and tapioca. They are approved for use in pet foods (e.g., AAFCO 2017; 48.25) as “a purified concentrated aqueous solution of nutritive saccharides, or dried product derived from said solution, derived from starch having a dextrose equivalent of less than 20.” The key here is that the starch molecule has been clipped to a range of lengths between 3 and 20 glucose units. This has significant impact. Once trimmed and shortened by hydrolysis, it creates new opportunities for utilization.
As noted above, maltodextrins start with starch from corn, tapioca, etc., which is then heated in the presence of water causing the crystalline structure or starch granule to swell and break irreversibly. This allows for the enzymes and/or acids to degrade the starch. The starch is hydrolyzed with hydrochloric acid at high temperatures (135–150 degrees Celsius) for five to eight minutes. The acid is then neutralized, and the mixture filtered, decolorized…