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Maltol sources, health risks

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 by

Maltol is an organic compound that can be found in larch tree bark, pine needles, and roasted malt, which is where maltol gets its name from. This white, crystalline powder can be synthetically produced by heating up cellulose or starch. Maltol is notable for its sweet aroma which has been likened to that of caramel and cotton candy. Because of its unique scent, maltol is often used to add a sweet scent to various fragrances. Apart from its use in perfumes and colognes, maltol is also used as a flavoring agent and enhancer. Maltol is usually added to improve the scents of breads and cakes.

Harmful effects that can be caused by maltol

Maltol has been labeled as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Despite this, there are a number of side affects linked to the consumption of maltol, the majority of which are in the digestive system. Eating maltol or products that use maltol as a major ingredient may lead to some people experiencing:

  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Flatulence

Although relatively safe for human consumption, maltol has been known to cause problems to those involved in its handling. For example, maltol can act as an irritant to the skin, though it’s not been found to cause skin sensitization. Maltol can irritate the eyes and respiratory system as well.

The ingestion of pure maltol can bring about abdominal pains. In the event that this occurs, one should never induce vomiting as doing so can cause the maltol to be absorbed by the body at a quicker pace and in larger amounts. Moreover, repeated or prolonged consumption of pure maltol can cause organ damage. In particular, maltol may be toxic to the kidneys, bladder, and gastrointestinal tract.

Body systems harmed by maltol

Consuming maltol as a pure powder and as an additive in processed foods has been associated with gastrointestinal issues, so maltol can be considered harmful to the digestive system. In fact, the ingestion of pure maltol has been known to cause kidney and bladder damage, so maltol can be dangerous to these organs as well, though only when consumed.

In addition, maltol has been found to act as an irritant to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

Where to learn more


As a food additive, maltol may cause an individual to experience digestive issues like abdominal pains and diarrhea.

In its pure powder form, maltol can bring about a number of acute and chronic side effects that typically arise from improperly handling this material. Most notably, ingesting pure maltol powder can damage the digestive system, kidney, and bladders, though this only happens with repeated or prolonged exposure. Moreover, exposing the eyes, skin, and respiratory system to maltol can lead to irritation.

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