Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Is Modified Food Starch Bad For You?

Also Known As: modified starch, modified corn starch, starch derivatives



Short answer

Modified food starch is bad for you. The ingredient is treated with potentially harmful chemicals and has a high risk of contamination. We recommend limiting your consumption of this ingredient, if not avoiding it all together.



Long answer

Modified food starch is typically obtained from a variety of sources like wheat, corn, potato, or tapioca. This greatly processed carbohydrate adds roughly 30 calories or seven grams of carbs in each teaspoon, without offering any nutritional value in return. It is freely used in the food industry in everything from candies to baked goods, yogurt, ice creams and meats. It serves a large variety of functions like enhancing shelf life, improving freezing and thawing cycles, it acts as a stabilizer, thickening agent, and an emulsifier.

While the original sources pose few problems, it is when the starch from these sources is chemically, physically or enzymatically treated, hence “modified”, to allow it to have the desired properties that we run into trouble. An ingredient label reading “modified starch” is most likely to have been treated with things like sulfuric acid, chlorine or other chemicals which are not altogether safe for consumption. Modified food starch is frequently composed of around 10% maltodextrin, which camouflages the existence of monosodium glutamate. The treatment of starch with less than desirable chemicals increases the risk of contamination and in some cases, we are actually consuming the chemicals.  This poses a health threat and is the actual cause for concern when modified starch is used in processed foods.

As mentioned earlier, modified food starch contains maltodextrin, a flavorless powder that is employed as a binding agent in candies, sport enhancing supplements and drinks. Its side effects include sudden weight gain and wheat allergy-like symptoms including rashes, itching, asthma etc. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is another chemical commonly added to modified food starch to further boost flavors. While not everyone experiences side effects from consuming MSG, many report nausea, headaches, heart palpitations, and chest pain, among others. 

People following gluten-free diets may be asked by their doctors to avoid modified food starch altogether - even when it is not made from wheat. This concern is due to the risk of cross-contamination during the manufacturing process. Unless the company follows strict protocols, contamination is fairly common. 

Lastly, modified starch is calorie dense, so weight conscious individuals should take note. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • allergic reaction (may contain gluten)
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • side effects from chemical contamination

Commonly found in

  • powder coated food
  • candy
  • low fat ice cream
  • canned soup
  • cheese sauces
  • microwaveable meals

Ingredients to be aware of

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 07-03-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Desmond Richard
Published on: 07-03-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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