MYTHS & FACTS: Spilling the TEA on New Age Sweeteners

MYTHS & FACTS: Spilling the TEA on New Age Sweeteners

MYTH: Isomaltooligosaccharide (aka IMO) is a Fiber  


It is NOT a fiber:

It is a common misconception that IMO is a fiber, however in 2018, the FDA denied classifying IMO as a fiber (FDA Gov.). In a research study, it was shown that 85% of IMO was digested, demonstrating it was ineffective in improving gut health. Comparing IMO to a common prebiotic, inulin, it was found that IMO was 14 times less effective in improving gut health (Kinesiology, Auburn, et al.).

It is a carbohydrate:

In simple terms, IMO is a mixture of short chain carbohydrates that is used as a low calorie sweetener in food and beverage products (Subhan, Fatheema B., et al.). It naturally exists in honey and fermented foods such as miso, sake, and soy sauce. However, the IMO used in commercially available products is made through an enzymatic reaction with starch of which the base can be corn, sweet potato, tapioca, and rice (Gourineni, Vishnupriya et al. & Quan Duong Hong et al.). 

IMO raises glucose & insulin levels:

Scientific research has also shown that the consumption of IMO compared to soluble corn fiber drastically increases insulin & glucose levels. Although this ingredient is not considered a sugar, it similarly spikes levels of glucose & insulin (Kinesiology, Auburn, et al.).

Over-consumption of IMO may cause GI problems:

It’s important to look at the amount of IMO one is consuming each day, as “an intake of IMO higher than 30 g/day may cause possible gastrointestinal problems (flatulence, bloating, soft stool, or diarrhea).” (Canada Gov.) In a study done testing the glucose and digestive impact of IMO in comparison to dextrose, it was found that there was no difference between the two, proving that it behaved similarly to a sugar (Gourineni, Vishnupriya et al.). 

MYTH: The allulose in all your food products is coming from figs, dates, raisins, and unicorns. 


Even though allulose is naturally found in figs, dates, and raisins, in most cases, the allulose used in the majority of your food products is commercially manufactured from corn (Jürkenbeck, Kristin et al.). Tate & Lyle, one of the largest producers of allulose, states “we don’t extract it from those sources [fruits, figs, raisins] as that would not be commercially viable”, thus, the producer makes allulose from genetically modified corn (Watson, Elaine). Here’s the standard process of how allulose is made: corn is converted into starch, which is decomposed into fructose, which is then converted in order to produce allulose (Jiang, Suwei, et al.). Allulose has gained its popularity due to its low calorie content (0-0.39kcal/g), and has been heavily adopted in keto diets (Yuma, Tani, et al.). Although allulose is not labeled as sugar, it is included in the total carbohydrate count.

IMO Sources: 

Kinesiology, Auburn, et al. "Corrigendum: The effects of soluble corn fibre and isomaltooligosaccharides on blood glucose, insulin, digestion and fermentation in healthy young males and females." (2018).   

Gourineni, Vishnupriya et al. “Gastrointestinal Tolerance and Glycemic Response of Isomaltooligosaccharides in Healthy Adults.” Nutrients vol. 10,3 301. 3 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10030301 

Quan Duong Hong, Tri Hoang Minh, Hong Gam Nguyen Thi, Thu Hien Nguyen Thi, Ngoc Hoa Nguyen, Truc Lam Nguyen Thi, Van Anh Nguyen Thi, Thu Trang Vu, Hong Nga Luong, "Synthesis of Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMOs) from Sweet Potato Starch by Simultaneous Saccharification and Transglycosylation Using Saccharomyces cerevisiae Var. diastaticus BE 134 to Improve Purity of IMOs", Journal of Food Quality, vol. 2021, Article ID 1987219, 12 pages, 2021.  

“Isomalto-oligosaccharide (VitaFiber).”, 11 October 2012, Accessed 17 May 2023.  

Allulose sources: 

Jürkenbeck, Kristin et al. “Does Allulose Appeal to Consumers? Results from a Discrete Choice Experiment in Germany.” Nutrients vol. 14,16 3350. 16 Aug. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14163350

Watson, Elaine. “Tate & Lyle: 'The first two things consumers look for on the Nutrition Facts panel now are calories and sugar.'” FoodNavigator USA, 13 May 2019, Accessed 17 May 2023. 

Jiang, Suwei, et al. "Review on D-allulose: in vivo metabolism, catalytic mechanism, engineering strain construction, bio-production technology." Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology (2020): 26.  

Yuma, Tani, et al. "Allulose for the attenuation of postprandial blood glucose levels in healthy humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Plos one 18.4 (2023): e0281150. 

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