Dextrose Equivalent, Glycemic Index, Maltodextrin, Sugar, and Soylent


Continuing the discussion from Blood Sugar Spike After Soylent:

I’m a little confused and a little concerned about the maltodextrin in Soylent 1.0. (I started writing this in reply to the above thread, and then decided to break it out into its own thread.)

I currently consume large amounts of a meal replacement shake that has a lot of added table sugar (sucrose), around 120g in a day’s supply when I’m using it as sole-source nutrition. My Soylent is on order and I am looking forward to it as being “healthier” in terms of “less sugar.”

2g of sugar in a serving of Soylent 1.0 according to the nutrition label, or 6g per day, sounds a lot better (“healthier”) to me than 120g of sugar in a day’s worth of Ensure Plus.

Yet reading about the DE and GI of maltodextrin, I’m not sure if it’s actually “better” or “healthier” than table sugar.

I guess my main concern for myself is “pancreas fatigue” and/or “insulin overload” rather than high blood sugar itself. I’ve done a bit of finger pricking for the blood sugar meter (not as much as the OP of the above thread! @CarltonLemley ) and it’s always basically normal (down around 100 a couple hours after a meal, and below 100 first thing in the morning).

Like @whitslack I get trembly palpitations after drinking my shakes (not Soylent, mine hasn’t arrived yet).

I understand that insulin can cause those symptoms, and can also cause weight gain, even if blood sugar is “normal” and overall calorie intake is within the recommended range.

Dextrose equivalent (DE) and glycemic index (GI) use dextrose (AKA glucose) as a baseline. Dextrose itself has a DE of 100, and a GI of 100.

The DE of maltodextrin is 10, and the GI of maltodextrin is 130. (According to the Soylent macronutrient overview blog post the GI of Soylent as a whole is still under research.)

Food with a high GI is what causes blood sugar spikes, accompanied (in non-diabetic persons) by an insulin spike (the body’s mechanism to bring down the blood sugar). (May also be affected by the glycemic load (GL) of a food, which is a function of the total amount eaten, and how many total carbs vs. fiber.)

I’m not actually sure what the significance of DE is in terms of how a substance is utilized by the body. (Anyone who knows more about this, please chime in.) I’ve seen a couple of posts that seem to imply that the “low” DE of maltodextrin of 10 is somehow “healthy” or “good” but it’s not clear to me that this is the case.

The 130 GI of maltodextrin is very high, higher than just about any other food substance.

As a comparison, table sugar (sucrose) has a DE of zero, and a GI of 65. It’s clear that table sugar can cause the trembles, blood sugar/insulin spikes, etc. that cause problems for some of us. Yet the DE and GI of table sugar are both lower than maltodextrin.

The above thread contains descriptions of consumers experiencing blood sugar spikes after consuming Soylent 1.0 (there have been a number of other posts describing similar symptom throughout this Discourse too).

I’m hoping to generate some general dialogue on the topic, but I’ll ask a couple specific questions to start:

  1. Why maltodextrin in Soylent, as a basic unit to provide carbs, instead of plain ol’ table sugar? (As regards nutrition, as opposed to palatablity or taste “neutrality”; like almost everything, some people would like the taste of the sugar, some wouldn’t.)

  2. Due to the maltrodextrin (and/or other ingredients, oat flour etc.), is Soylent likely to cause the blood sugar and insulin spikes I’m trying to avoid, perhaps more likely than the sugary meal replacement shakes I currently consume? Maybe even more likely to cause it than the candy, cakes, etc. which are (sadly) a main source of my calories when I’m not using a controlled replacement meal source?

What Response Did You Receive From Your Doctor When You Told Them You Were Drinking/Taking Soylent?
Blood Sugar Spike After Soylent

You’ve quoted me above, but I’m totally taking back my comment about maltodextrin being high glycemic index.

As was pointed out by others ‘maltodextrin’ is actually a family of molecules with varying GI, and they’ve picked low GI maltodextrins for Soylent.

Given that, personally I would expect maltodextrin to be much healthier than sucrose.


According to this study the spike from maltodextrin is no better or worse than dextrose. As there are a variety of maltodextrins with different DE’s, and the article doesn’t mention what DE is used, I don’t know if Soylent’s source (or Honeyville) would fare any better… but it definitely wouldn’t do worse.

It is also known that fiber can lessen blood sugar spikes by slowing down digestion. I don’t know if the sugary meal replacements you drink are high in fiber, but that could have an effect as well.


The sugary meal replacements I drink have zero fiber. So yes, that’s a good point that the fiber in Soylent will have an affect (will make Soylent have a lower “glycemic load”, if I understand how that works).

Regarding the study that showed the spike from maltodextrin is no different from that of dextrose; that’s fine, but what I’d like to know, is how the spike from maltodextrin compares to that of sucrose.

And additionally, how does DE affect the spike anyway? Does it affect the spike? The wikipedia article on DE doesn’t say anything about how the DE of a substance affects blood sugar. I’m wondering if DE is a red herring that doesn’t have much to do with the way a carb or sweetener will affect our bodies (keeping in mind that sucrose has a DE of zero).


I’m just trying to add some information, I don’t have answers for you :wink: Now we need a comparison between glucose (which dextrose is) and sucrose (which is glucose/fructose).


I didn’t mean to quote you out of context (it was, after all, a couple months ago, which is one reason I broke this out into a new topic).

Can you quote where Rosa Labs says that they are using low GI maltodextrin, or some source that says that maltodextrin from corn is low GI? Because I haven’t seen that, and I don’t get that by reading the blog post that I linked above.

The blog post says that they are using corn maltodextrin, and that it is low DE. What I don’t understand is what effect the DE of a substance has on blood sugar (bearing in mind that table sugar has a DE of zero, yet is well known to cause blood sugar spikes).



Thanks, that one’s going to take me awhile to pore through.


My understanding of dietary fiber reducing blood sugar spikes is based on random internet readings… I need to find something more substantial. I’ll dig around.

“Several studies have shown that the adverse metabolic effects of high-carbohydrate diets are neutralized when fiber and carbohydrate are increased simultaneously in the diet for diabetic patients. In particular, these studies demonstrated that a high-carbohydrate/high-fiber diet significantly improves blood glucose control and reduces plasma cholesterol levels in diabetic patients compared with a low-carbohydrate/low-fiber diet. In addition, a high-carbohydrate/high-fiber diet does not increase plasma insulin and triglyceride concentrations, despite the higher consumption of carbohydrates. Unfortunately, dietary fiber represents a heterogenous category, and there is still much to understand as to which foods should be preferred to maximize the metabolic effects of fiber. There are indications that only water-soluble fiber is active on plasma glucose and lipoprotein metabolism in humans.”


As I am curious about this issue as well I will be doing some experiments on myself (different carbohydrate sources, with and without fiber) in about three weeks. The data I collect won’t really be useful for most people as the sample size is too small, but it should be interesting nonetheless.

From the blog post you linked:

“Our chosen maltodextrin is derived from corn and has a DE of 10.”

The lower the DE the greater the proportion of longer oligosaccharide chains. Whether or not the difference has any significant impact on blood sugar levels is something I don’t know… considering how little I could find about the subject, making a decision would be equivalent to guessing.

For comparison, here is the Honeyville maltodextrin used in many DIY recipes:

The maltodextrin with a DE of 10 seems to have ~20% more 11+ chains as compared to the maltodextrin with a DE of 18. By comparison, the starch amylose is usually between 300-3000+ units…

There seems to be a range of G.I. listings for maltodextrin (80-130). If anyone could find the source of this variation it would be appreciated.

Here is a patent which lists maltodextrin with a DE below 15 as “moderately absorbed” along with white flour and wheat flour… this means nothing on its own but was referenced so I included a link:

Here’s something more applicable: it directly answers the sucrose vs maltodextrin question. It compared a feed containing low sucrose/high maltodextrin and high sucrose/moderate maltodextrin in healthy individuals as well as individuals with Type II diabetes:

“No significant differences were seen between supplements A (high maltodextrin) and B (high sucrose). As the only difference between these products is the CHO composition, this indicates that maltodextrins have no clear advantage over sucrose.”

I find this interesting as the G.I. of sucrose is lower than maltodextrin… yet here we have no significant difference between the two feeds. I have been trying to find the paper that originally determined the G.I. of maltodextrin but I have been unsuccessful.

There is no much contradictory information out there.


@melcron thanks for all the digging. I am going to peruse the articles you linked and see if I can gain a better understanding.

I just found the following pop-sci article (the author is a registered dietitian, at least) which explains the makeup of maltodextrin in layman’s terms. Unless someone can cite where Rosa Labs has stated that the maltodextrin they use is low GI, or “starch resistant maltodextrin” as is described in the article below, I’m calling shenanigans on that claim.

Mysterious Maltodextrin an exerpt:

Effects of maltodextrin on blood sugar

Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate and will have an effect on your blood sugar. It contains the same amount of carbohydrate and calories as sugar (4 calories per gram). It’s easily digested and is absorbed even more rapidly than glucose. Maltodextrin has a glycemic effect of 106 - 136 (depending upon what chart you read) as compared to table sugar (sucrose) which has a glycemic effect of 65 and glucose which has a glycemic index of 100. So obviously, maltodextrin will affect your blood sugar, and in turn, your insulin levels. However, the degree as to how maltodextrin will affect blood sugar depends upon the quantity of it in the food product. Here’s the problem - maltodextrin is included in the total carbohydrate content, so you really can’t tell how much maltodextrin is in the product.

So how can products that are supposedly sugar free contain maltodextrin? Take the example of Equal. If you read the label, you will see it contains maltodextrin. Yet, the label says Equal contains less than one gram of carbohydrate. This is because while maltodextrin is added to bulk this product, only very small amounts are used - less than one gram of maltodextrin and glucose are added. So in reality, it shouldn’t have much of an effect on your blood sugar because the amount is so small. However, it is possible that if MANY packets are consumed, it could have an effect on blood sugar levels.

Misinformation on maltodextrin

In my research for this article, I came across several websites that said maltodextrin has a minimal impact on blood sugar and was great for diabetics because it was broken down very slowly. Another site said it had shown a “much lower release into the bloodstream than typical sugar.” Now you all know the real scoop - maltodextrin has a similar impact on your blood sugar as compared to sugar - it even has a higher glycemic index!

The example of maltodextrin in Equal packets is a good one. <1 gram of maltodextrin in a packet, so of course it’s not going to affect your blood sugar. Soylent has 165g of maltodextrin in a day’s worth.

Furthermore, the main usage for maltodextrin in the food supply is as a thickener, filler, etc. When was it first used as a staple supply of carbs in the diet? Is it even any more suitable than table sugar for this purpose? Both are apparently “empty” carbs.


Here’s a post from September 2013. @rob said in that post that Soylent used a specific type of maltodextrin that has a low GI. (He said at least one inaccurate thing in that post too: that Ensure gets a large percentage of its calories from high fructose corn syrup. Ensure doesn’t contain any HCFS, and hasn’t for as long as I’ve been using it, which is over a year. Also, the website for Dr. Dr. Pi-Sunyer is no longer active - domain parked.)

That same month Rob also said:

So, as of September 2013, beta Soylent used tapioca maltodextrin, which has a low GI. But according to the official blog Soylent 1.0 uses corn maltodextrin. What is the GI of the corn maltodextrin used by Soylent 1.0? It has a low DE of 10, I understand that, but DE != GI.


I don’t think I have seen either of you say it, but Glycemic Index (GI) may is not accurate when consuming varying GI foods. That is to say eating something with a high GI and eating something else will not give the same GI number. Soylent 1.0, with ALL ingredients has a low GI number. I don’t know the exact GI of Soylent, but be aware the GI has many factors that change it.


The effect of fiber/fat has been mentioned.


I look forward to seeing something concrete from Rosa Labs that gives a tested GI number for Soylent 1.0, given the anecdotes of spike-like symptoms after consuming it.

(Incidentally, Ensure Plus contains corn maltodextrin too, I overlooked that in my previous posts. It’s the second ingredient, after water and before sugar. They keep reformulating it, so the maltodextrin might not have figured so prominently in the ingredient list when I read the label in the past. They also recently removed the pea protein, at least from the vanilla flavor.)



Preliminary tests by beta testers and founders abiding by WHO
glycemic index testing guidelines have found the GI to be rather low.

They don’t share the actual number, but they do say its low. Some spike-like symptoms may be from unique individuals who the GI scale my be entirely different.


i just posted this in the headache blog but I think the OP figured out the problem with Soylent right now. Basically replace the malto with sugar (less than the original 55g…maybe 20g is a good number)…scrap the sucralose…add more oat flour to get carbs back.