December 8, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Hydrogenated Starch

I recently saw an ingredient called "hydrogenated starch."

What is it?

Is avoidance prudent?

-- Corey Clark
(Location withheld)

Let me guess -- you saw hydrogenated starch as an ingredient in a sugar-free product?

Althrough hydrogenation always conjures up thoughts of unhealthy fats, that same process is rather harmless when applied to starch.

Hydrogenating starch is one way of producing a calorically low sweetener (approximately two to three calories per gram, compared to sugar's four.)

It's technically a type of sugar alcohol (just like sorbitol, maltitol, and other ingredients ending in 'ol' that you can spot on most low-carb candy bars.)

First, starch -- usually corn or wheat -- is partially hydrolyzed (meaning molecular bonds are broken by reacting them with water.)

The resulting molecules are then hydrogenated (saturated with hydrogen).

End result? Sweetness, bulk, long shelf life, and the ability to develop products labeled "diabetic friendly" or "low carb."

Hydrogenated starch in and of itself does not pose any health risks.

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