Maltodextrin is a sweetener that is not sugar. It is usually made from rice, corn, or potato starch and is more easily digested than some other carbohydrates. It has low calories (4 calories per gram) so it is not calorie free. For someone with diabetes this may be a better option than sugar because it won’t spike glucose levels. In addition to it being a sweetener it can also be used as a thickening agent for sauces and dressings. Maltodextrin may also contain (or create) Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).
My 2 cents: Based on the scientific information I found it seems as though products containing maltodextrin isn’t something to be too concerned about when taken in moderation. The problem arises for people watching their weight, or trying to lose weight, when EVERYTHING they consume contains it. With this common food ingredient the thing to remember is MODERATION. Every gram of maltodextrin contains 4 calories and if you are not careful those calories can add up.
The best foods to buy are going to be those that have very few ingredients listed and need no explanation as to what they are. Example: Bryers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream. Ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, natural flavor, natural tara gum. (Ok, so maybe you don’t know what “Tara Gum” is, so let me tell you. Tara gum comes from the seeds of the tara tree so it is also a natural ingredient.)
Sources: www.wisegeek.com, www.wikipedia.com