Waxy maize contains a much higher proportion of amylopectin or soluble starch than ordinary maize, and is easy to make into a thickening agent or gel, producing a colourless, viscous paste which has a sticky surface.
Originally found in China (though probably native to the Americas), this kind of starch is less likely to separate out and is thus a more stable thickener, being popularly used in gravies, sauces and as an additive to improve texture and uniformity in processed foods, particularly fruit products which would normally use pectin.
Waxy maize starch is also a popular base for producing maltodextrins, and is available as a supplement for athletes and body-builders. Because waxy maize is composed entirely of amylopectin, it has a 100% soluble starch content which can be quickly absorbed, offering a quick carbohydrate supply that will sustain a steady release of energy. It is therefore popular for loading carbs before a work-out or period of endurance exercise.
Research confirms that the slower digestibility of waxy maize starch releases glucose at a more sustained rate, conferring greater feelings of fullness, preventing blood sugar spikes and concentrations of insulin, and leading to a prolonged availability of energy.