Maltose: What is it? Where does it come from? Industrialization, Benefits, Differences and Disadvantages

It is a disaccharide composed of a molecule made up of two monosaccharides or simple sugars.

The most common disaccharides are:

  • Saccharose.
  • Maltose.
  • Lactose.

Disaccharides have 12 carbon atoms, and their chemical formula is C12H22O11.

Other less common disaccharides include:

  • Lactulose.
  • Trehalose.
  • Cellobiose

These are formed by dehydration reactions in which a total of one molecule of water is removed from the two monosaccharides.

Maltose is malt sugar. It is a disaccharide composed of two glucose molecules connected with an alpha 1,4 glycosidic bond.

Maltose is not an essential nutrient. In plants, maltose is formed when starch breaks down for food.


In the small intestine lining, the enzymes maltase and isomaltase break down maltose into two glucose molecules, then absorbed.

Maltose and its digestive glucose product attract water from the intestinal wall (osmotic effect), so it can cause diarrhea if consumed in excess. Maltose can promote tooth decay.

People with a congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency may experience bloating and diarrhea after ingesting maltose, sucrose, or starch.

Maltose has a high glycemic index (GI = 105) and can cause higher blood glucose spikes than sucrose.

Antidiabetic drug acarbose inhibits the digestion of maltose, resulting in slower glucose absorption and lower blood glucose spikes after carbohydrate meals.

Where does maltose come from?

It is created in seeds and other parts of plants as they break down their stored energy to sprout.

Therefore, cereals, certain fruits, and sweet potatoes contain high amounts of this sugar.

Although maltose is less sweet than table sugar and fructose, it has long been used in hard candies and frozen desserts due to its unique tolerance to heat and cold.

With increasing public awareness of the adverse health effects of high fructose corn syrup and other fructose-containing sweeteners, many food companies are switching to maltose, which does not contain fructose.

Maltose industrialization

The grains are germinated in water in the malting process and then dried. This activates the enzymes in the grains to release maltose and other sugars and proteins.

The sugars and proteins in malt are highly nutritious for yeast, which is why malt has become essential in brewing beer, whiskey, and malt vinegar.

Malted grains are also used in sweets and desserts as sweeteners.

Maltose can be purchased as dry crystals where brewing supplies are sold or as a syrup sold alongside baking supplies.

The syrup is usually corn-based but should not be confused with high fructose corn syrup.

You can use maltose in recipes as a 1: 1 substitute for other sugars. Maltose is not as sweet as sucrose or fructose, so that it may take a little more than 1: 1 to produce the desired flavor in some recipes.

Maltose-rich foods

Several foods naturally contain maltose. Maltose can be found in:

  • Wheat.
  • Cornmeal.
  • Barley.
  • Various ancient grains.

Many breakfast bowls of cereal also use malted grains to add natural sweetness.

Fruits are another common source of maltose in the diet, especially peaches and pears.

Sweet potatoes contain more maltose than most other foods, which accounts for their sweet taste.

Most syrups get their sweetness from maltose. In the case of corn syrup, it contains 50% maltose, which is why it is helpful in the manufacture of hard candies and a low-cost sweetener.

Is maltose good for your health?

People commonly use sucrose, also known as table sugar, to cook and sweeten foods. It is another short chain of two sugars made from a glucose molecule attached to a fructose molecule.

Because sucrose releases these two sugars, its health effects are likely to be somewhere between those of glucose and fructose.

However, fructose has more severe health implications and is metabolized differently than glucose.

Eating a high-fructose diet can lead to a more rapid onset of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

Since maltose is made up of only glucose, not fructose, it might be slightly healthier than table sugar.

Table sugar vs. Corn syrup

Some people think table sugar is healthier than the often demonized high fructose corn syrup.

But in reality, its fructose content is very similar. Table sugar is precisely 50% glucose and 50% fructose, while high fructose corn syrup is about 55% fructose and 45% glucose.

This slight difference makes table sugar no healthier than high fructose corn syrup.

Food companies have tried to avoid the growing negative public perception of fructose by replacing high-fructose corn syrup with high-maltose corn syrup.

And they may be correct in doing so. If maltose is used to replace the same amount of fructose, gram for gram, it may be a slightly healthier option.

High-maltose, high-fructose corn syrups can be substituted in a 1: 1 ratio, but individual products may vary.

Just because fructose is a little worse for people to eat doesn’t make maltose healthy. It should be noted that maltose is still sugar and should be used sparingly.

Disadvantages of maltose

Almost no research exists on the health effects of maltose in the diet.

Because most maltose is broken down into glucose when digested, its health effects are likely similar to other sources of glucose.

Nutritionally, maltose provides the same calories as starches and other sugars.

The muscles, liver, and brain can convert glucose into energy. Once these energy needs are met, any remaining glucose in the bloodstream is converted to lipids and stored as fat.

As with other sugars, when maltose is consumed in moderation, the body uses it for energy and does not cause harm.

However, if people consume excess maltose, it can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease, as can other sugars.

As for most nutrients, it is the dose that produces the poison for maltose.


Maltose is a sugar that tastes less sweet than table sugar, lacks fructose, and is usually used to substitute for corn syrup that contains high levels of fructose.

To avoid diseases due to the excessive use of maltose, it is recommended to use fruits and berries as sweeteners.

This will help reduce added sugars, providing a more balanced diet. In addition, while they contain small amounts of sugar, they also offer additional nutrients such as:

  • Fiber.
  • Vitamins
  • Antioxidants

Maltose might be preferable to sugars that contain fructose. However, it is still sugar, so it should be used in moderation.