Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) is a moderately sweet carbohydrate that occurs naturally, though in small quantities, in honey. 

It is also found in fermented foods such as miso and soy sauce.

It has certain beneficial properties similar to Oligofructose and Inulin. Like these it is made up of carbohydrate chains that are resistant to digestion, and therefore low in calories. However it differs in that the carbohydrate in the chain is glucose not fructose.

It consists of usually 3 to 6 glucose molecules bound with an indigestible glycosidic linkage. The stomach is unable to break the linkage to free the glucose, so it passes into the colon without being metabolized. It is therefore characterized as a soluble fiber.

It has a good taste and about half the sweetness of sugar.

It is mainly used in protein bars and health bars. It can be used as a bulking agent and as a sugar substitute, though intense sweeteners are usually needed to impart the required flavor.

It has about half the calories of sugar. It has a low glycemic index, though at about 35 it is not really suitable for diabetics. It adds fiber to the diet. It is prebiotic and has been shown to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. It has also been show to assist the body's ability to absorb minerals from food. It adds bulk and texture to processed foods.

It has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.

See: NCIB treatment of lipid profiles with IMO

Like Xylitol and Erythritol it appears to help reduce the development of tooth decay by protecting the enamel.

Isomalto-oligosaccharide has a mildly laxative effect. It is a fiber and this can have beneficial effects but can cause cramps etc if consumed to excess. Probably best not to consume more than 30 gm per day. (About 7 small teaspoons) For this reason it is a good idea to be aware of its presence in processed foods and 'health foods'.

It has great benefits, but may not suit everyone.

Safety Guidelines:
The FDA has issued a guideline of 30gm per day. It would be well to start below this level. Over time the body habituates to use and the amount can be safely increased.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest give a SAFE rating for Inulin and Oligofructose. Though they do not specifically mention IMO, it is almost identical in it's effects.

Though it is naturally occurring, it is not economically viable to extract it. Instead It is produced from starch. Any type will do though wheat, corn and rice are most commonly used. The starch is converted into maltose syrup using enzymatic hydrolysis. This maltose syrup is then treated further with enzymes to convert the glycosidic  linkages into a non digestible form containing 3 to 6 glucose molecules. Although it has health benefits, it is a pure chemical substance, and like white sugar is devoid of all nutrients.

Sold As:
It has been available in China and Japan for about 20 years. Only recently available in Europe and the US. A company called BioNeutra produce a product called VitaFiber. It is the main carbohydrate and bulking agent in Quest protein bars.

It can be bought in powdered form, and is very fine like caster sugar. It is quite sticky and has a texture and mouth feel quite like candy floss.

How Expensive?
Not too expensive. On the bulk and commercial market It is about 1.5 times the price of sugar by weight and only about half as sweet. For personal use a kilo can be bought on Amazon for about $15.

Interesting facts:
Isomalto-oligosaccharide is a  carbohydrate made up of glucose molecules joined in a particular type of glycosidic linkage which cannot be broken down by saliva or digestive enzymes.

It is rather unfortunate that it was named by an unimaginative scientist. It is probably rather unsettling for most people to see this complicated and peculiar name on the ingredient list of a product they are about to consume. However it is a safe and natural substance!  

Though it occurs in nature, in is not found in large concentrations, so although it has beneficial effects, moderation is advised.

Approved by the FDA in 2009. Approved in most countries.


Conclusions for Isomalto-oligosaccharide

About half as sweet as sugar, it has many beneficial effects. Excessive consumption can lead to mild problems with some individuals. Best to limit consumption to 30gm per day. Has medicinal uses and is said to boost the immune system. Helps to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Also helps prevent tooth decay. Generally speaking good news! As they say in Ireland - it has a queer name but it's great stuff! 

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
IMO 2.4 0.5 35 20

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No.
Concerns: ----- Only in excess.

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