Polydextrose: What is it? How does it work? Uses, Side Effects, Precautions and Considerations

It is a non-digestible oligosaccharide that is widely used in most sectors of the food industry.

It is a randomly connected oligomer of glucose that contains small amounts of sorbitol and citric acid.

Random linkages in polydextrose prevent mammalian digestive enzymes from easily hydrolyzing the molecule and have a reported energy value of 1 kcal / g.

These properties have led to the acceptance in many countries that polydextrose provides similar physiological effects to other dietary fibers and has demonstrated prebiotic potential.

Prebiotic dietary intervention has been shown to selectively stimulate the growth and / or activity of one or a limited number of intestinal bacteria associated with various physiological health benefits.

It is used in food or as medicine and is made in laboratories. Polydextrose is taken by mouth to:

  • Itchy, flaky skin ( eczema ).
  • Diabetes.
  • Glucose intolerance (prediabetes)
  • Child development.
  • Prebiotic.

In food, polydextrose is used as a sweetener and to improve the texture of food.

How does polydextrose work?

Polydextrose passes undigested into the colon where it can increase intestinal mass and possibly promote the growth of certain bacteria that are believed to be beneficial.

Due to its complex structure, it is not hydrolyzed by the digestive enzymes of mammals in the small intestine, passing intact to the colon, where it is gradually and partially fermented by the endogenous microbiota and the rest, approximately 60%, is excreted in the feces.

As PDX is not used by the host, this results in an energy contribution of 1 kcal / g.

Polydextrose can be used as a low calorie bulking agent in a wide range of foods, such as baked goods, confectionery, dairy products, and functional beverages, as it is highly soluble in water and results in a non-viscous solution.

The PDX has been the subject of numerous studies, due to its versatility and multifunctionality. In addition to being an excellent ingredient, it has been approved for use in food in more than 60 countries and is recognized as dietary fiber in more than 20 countries.

Daily intake of 4-12 g of PDX has been shown to improve physiological functions without adverse effects.

Applications

Polydextrose is recommended as a treatment for infant development because its combination with other prebiotics in infant formula does not affect how quickly a healthy baby gains weight or increases in size.

Side effects of polydextrose

Polydextrose usually has no side effects as long as a serving contains less than 15 grams.

It is safe when taken by mouth in doses of less than 50 grams per day. Polydextrose can cause intestinal gas, such as:

  • Flatulence
  • Swelling in the stomach
  • Diarrhea.

Precautions

On flaky and itchy skin (eczema): some research shows that feeding babies at risk of allergy a formula containing 8 grams / l of a prebiotic mixture that includes polydextrose increases the risk of developing eczema by 11% compared with the control formula.

However, other research shows that feeding similar infants a formula containing 4 grams / L of a prebiotic blend that includes polydextrose does not affect the risk of developing eczema.

Diabetes: Early research shows that drinking a drink containing polydextrose twice a day for 12 weeks does not affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes), or impairs fasting glucose.

In pregnancy and lactation, the use of polydextrose should be avoided, because it can have negative effects on the development of the unborn or baby.

Effects on mineral absorption of polydextrose

Iron is normally absorbed from the small intestine, and the stomach plays an essential role in enhancing the biological availability of iron.

Also, calcium is normally absorbed in the small intestine. However, when their absorption pathway is not sufficient to meet the body’s needs, these minerals can also be absorbed through the colon.

Polydextrose ferments slowly and gradually, and the beneficial effects are mediated either through the metabolites produced and / or the altered microbiota composition.

Effects on microbiota of polydextrose

In vitro studies have indicated that PDX has prebiotic potential, as it has been shown to beneficially modify colonic microbial composition and activity.

Unlike other prebiotics with smaller molecular weights, polydextrose ferments slowly and remains available as a carbon source for the microbiota throughout the colon, including the distal part of the colon.

The sustained and slow fermentation of PDX has been demonstrated in vitro, in vivo, and in human dietary intervention trials.

Gradual fermentation by colonic microbes leads to sustained production of SCFA (acetate, propionate, and butyrate) and lesser amounts of gas.

Consumption of polydextrose improves colon mineral absorption and gastrointestinal function, for example:

The slow and sustained fermentation probably explains the good tolerance of PDX observed in human intervention studies.

It also ensures that polydextrose is present in the distal part of the colon, where proteolytic fermentation that would otherwise take place once the substrates for saccharolytic fermentation is depleted is diminished.

Considerations

The key characteristics of dietary fiber are effects on nutrient absorption, changes in the composition and / or activity of the gut microbiota, modulation of immune function, enhancement of serum glucose and postprandial lipid responses, enhancement of intestinal function and energy intake.

Many of these physiological benefits are interrelated and play a central role. Polydextrose shows evidence for several of these areas; particularly for postprandial benefits, energy intake, and bowel function.