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The Real Truth About Polydextrose

Not only is this common protein bar ingredient safe for consumption – it also offers potential health benefits.

The Real Truth About Polydextrose

In the world of nutrition, it's not uncommon to come across ingredients that raise both eyebrows and questions. One such ingredient that has been stirring debate is polydextrose. Found in the ingredients list of many protein bars (including my JYM Protein Bar ), polydextrose serves as a thickening agent and stabilizer in an array of low-carb and low-sugar food products, including candies, cakes, and other desserts.

But the question remains: What exactly is polydextrose? I’ll answer this question very clearly to try and end the debate.

What is Polydextrose?

Polydextrose is a synthetic polysaccharide — essentially a polymer that’s 90% glucose, predominantly derived from corn. Through polymerization, glucose forms glucose bonds in the presence of sorbitol (usually extracted from berries) and citric acid as a catalyst. These bonds are uniquely resistant to digestion or breakdown by enzymes in the small intestine.

Classified as a soluble fiber, polydextrose navigates through the small intestine mostly intact, making its way to the large intestine or colon. There, it plays a crucial role by being fermented by beneficial gut bacteria, leading to the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate, acetic acid, and propionic acid. These SCFAs are instrumental in offering numerous benefits across various bodily systems.

Despite being man-made, which often raises skepticism, polydextrose's efficacy and benefits are backed by clinical studies, showcasing its prebiotic effect. Which begs the question: Why the apprehension towards polydextrose? While skepticism towards synthetic ingredients is understandable, the plethora of research supporting polydextrose's benefits and safety should offer reassurance. It has been proven safe with no links to toxicity, teratogenicity, carcinogenesis, mutagenicity, or genotoxicity, earning approval for use in over 50 countries worldwide.

More Than Just Fiber

Polydextrose's role doesn't stop at merely being a soluble fiber; it boasts a low Glycemic Index (GI) of about 5, contributing to lower GI meals even when they contain high-GI carbohydrates. Moreover, it mirrors the cholesterol-lowering effects observed with other soluble fibers and has been shown to reduce calorie intake in subsequent meals by increasing satiety.

Clinical studies have indicated that as little as 4-5 grams of polydextrose daily can positively impact colon microflora, enhancing the growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. It even aids in the uptake of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.

The primary caveat with polydextrose is the potential for gas production during fermentation by gut bacteria, which may lead to flatulence. However, this side effect typically becomes noticeable only beyond the consumption of 15-20 grams per serving, with tolerability confirmed up to 50 grams per serving. The amount of polydextrose in each JYM Protein Bar falls well below the 15-20-gram range.

The Bottom Line on Polydextrose

While polydextrose is a man-made ingredient, its inclusion in the diet, particularly in manufactured foods like protein bars, offers a healthier alternative to reduce sugar, carbohydrate, and calorie content. Furthermore, it extends the benefits of soluble fiber and prebiotics, underscoring the notion that not all synthetic ingredients are devoid of health benefits.

As with any dietary component, moderation is key, and understanding the science behind these ingredients can help us make informed nutritional choices. Personally, I had no reservations whatsoever about putting polydextrose in my JYM Protein Bar. Enjoy the tasty high-protein snack knowing that it’s helping you achieve your body composition goals!



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