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Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO)

Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2020-12-28      Origin: Site

What Is Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO)?

Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) is a high-maltose syrup made up of a mixture of short-chain carbohydrates. It is found naturally in some whole foods, but can also be manufactured to be added to packaged products. In recent years, isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) has become the holy grail ingredient for creating healthy processed foods like protein bars. It’s often marketed as a sweet-tasting, zero-calorie prebiotic fiber that has essentially zero effect on blood sugar.

Sound too good to be true? Let’s find out...

Why Is IMO Used in Packaged Food?

To say the average American has a sweet tooth would be an understatement. But it’s not our fault: Humans have evolved to seek out sweet, sugary, calorically-dense foods as a quick source of energy. Sugar was rare in ancient times, usually only found in seasonal foods like ripe fruits and honey. However, in today’s modern processed-food-laden world, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages are literally available on every street corner. Hello, obesity and metabolic disease.

The amount of sugar in most processed food is no surprise to anyone though, right? Luckily, consumers are becoming more well-informed and reading labels, looking for “healthy” options to snack on that are low in added sugar.

Protein bar manufacturers picked up on this need and started creating low-carb, high-protein energy bars. The hidden sweetening agent? You guessed it: IMO.

There are two main reasons why IMO was a seemingly genius addition to protein bars:

1. It has a sweet taste, but contains fewer calories per gram than natural sugar.

2. It’s believed to be a source of prebiotic fiber that doesn’t add to the overall net carbohydrate value of a food, making it marketable as “low-carb.”

A solution to the problem of producing a bar that's portable, high in fiber and natural energy – and doesn't taste like sawdust – had seemingly been found.

And as health-conscious consumers, we gobbled these babies up. Finally, a “healthy” bar with a low level of net carbs, relatively low calories, and high amounts of fiber and protein.

However, a deeper dive into the research shows that IMOs might not live up to their sterling reputation as a calorie-free, guilt-free source of dietary fiber.


Here’s a recap: IMO, while marketed as a healthy low-carb, zero-calorie, high-fiber sweetener, is not all its cracked up to be. In reality, it’s often from unnatural sources, causes blood sugar spikes, gas, and bloating, and is definitely not zero-calorie.

Whether you're an athlete seeking a clean energy bar to fuel a race, an outdoor enthusiast wanting a healthy protein bar, or a parent looking for a wholesome snack for your kids, you're better off steering clear of bars containing IMO. Instead, opt for products that are made only with whole-food sources and ingredients you’d recognize in nature.

And when you have bars like the Kion Bar that are sweetened with nutrient-dense, organic honey and contain natural sources of fiber like almonds, chia seeds, and cocoa nibs, who needs IMO anyway?

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