Dextrin refers to a colorless, gummy, low molecular carbohydrate that is odorless and tasteless. It is formed as a result of hydrolysis of either starch or glycogen. The main function of this compound is to bind things and most important use of this substance is in the food industry, not directly, but as a substance needed in the processing and finishing of food. Other uses include using it as a stiffening agent in the textile industry, as an adhesive in glues and as a binding agent in the pharmaceutical industry.
Dextrin is usually available in the powdered form in white, yellow and brown colors, which are generally partially soluble and at times, fully soluble in water. This carbohydrate is made with the help of enzymes such as amylases that act upon starch which is consumed internally. This whole process occurs during the digestion of food. Other than being produced in the body, it is also produced externally during the process of malting, mashing and under various acidic conditions such as roasting and pyrolysis, where dry heat is applied. This can be seen on baked bread, as a result of which bread has an aromatic flavor and a crispness and golden brown color on top. Such heat producing low molecular carbohydrates are also known as pyrodextrins.
Types of Dextrin
There are many types of dextrin that have different uses –
- Maltodextrin – This short chain starch sugar, which is a gelatin hybrid base, is produced through enzymatic hydrolysis of gelatin rich starch. This creamy-white substance is a hygroscopic powder. The main culinary use of the slightly sweet, easily digestible compound is as a food additive.
- Cyclodextrin – This is a cyclic dextrin that is formed by an enzymatic degradation of starches with the help of the bacteria, bacillus macerans.
- Amylodextrin – This is a linear dextrin, also referred as a short chain amylose. The enzymatic hydrolysis of de-branching amylopectin (alpha-1.6 glycosidic bonds) results in this substance.
- Beta limit dextrin, Alpha limit dextrin and highly branched cyclic dextrin are other types of dextrin.
Starchy vegetables such as corn, potato, arrowroot, tapioca and rice are used for making dextrin. Even wheat is used for this purpose. Because of their starchy nature, these vegetables are used in various culinary preparations as binding agents.
- The main culinary use of dextrin is in food processing, where it is used for enhancing crispness of foods, to provide glaze to various foods, as a food batter and also for coating foods.
- This substance is generally not easily digestible; however, it is converted into soluble fiber supplements that are used in a range of food products.
- Dextrin rich vegetables are used in various preparations such as mashed potatoes, bakes, as thickening agents in soups (corn starch) and gravies, in patties, etc.
Dextrin is known for its health benefits –
- It helps in increasing health benefiting digestive bacteria
- Helps in excluding the toxins from the body
- Increases appetite
- Improves bowel movement
- Helps in reducing the cholesterol level and also the fat cells level
- Maintains low blood sugar levels and also helps in regulating response to insulin
- Colon diseases are prevented with the help of dextrin
- Coronary heart disease and associated diseases are controlled with the help of this compound.
- British gum, a substitute gum used in printing fabrics, is a result of white and yellow dextrin that are formed by heating dry starch at very high temperature.
- Sparklers and other fireworks are made solid with the help of dextrin. In the US, it is one of the most used pyro binder.