First off, there’s the taste. Consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. At the end of the day, if the sweet indulgence tastes more like a bar of chalk, then there is a high probability that consumers will not be running out to buy it. In my opinion, most companies have nailed this aspect down to some degree. The majority of bars, cookies, or other low-carb snacks that I have tried actually taste really good. However, even if a product can meet the consumer standards with respect to taste and quality, the true separation occurs at the level of fiber source. The buzz words “high-fiber” and “low net carbs” are exploding in today’s society. Thus, companies are attempting to find ways in which they can add fiber to their products, thereby boosting their nutritional profile and simultaneously decreasing the number of net carbs. This now prompts the question: are all fiber sources nutritionally the same, and if not, what does this mean for the consumer?

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7. Bouhnik, Y., Raskine, L., Simoneau, G., Vicaut, E., Neut, C., Flourié, B., … & Bornet, F. R. (2004). The capacity of nondigestible carbohydrates to stimulate fecal bifidobacteria in healthy humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, dose-response relation study. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 80(6), 1658-1664.
A close relative of maltose is a molecule known as isomaltose (typically found in items such as beer and honey). The biggest difference between maltose and isomaltose is that isomaltose is joined together by an α-1,6 chemical bond, rather than an α-1,4 chemical bond. Scientists suspected that by adding a certain enzyme (transglucosidase) to high maltose syrup, they could change the bonds from α-1,4 to α-1,6, thereby making it more resistant to being broken down by the enzymes, as described above, when compared to maltose. Again, while this sounds excellent in theory, it is not necessarily what happens in our bodies. In fact, isomaltose (and thus, IMO syrups used in some of these products) is broken down by certain enzymes on the brush border of the small intestine.[2] Though the α-1,6 bond breaks down slower compared to the α-1,4 bond, these IMO syrups, which often use a blend of di-and oligosaccharides, ultimately metabolize into small amounts of glucose and maltose[2] and thus should be viewed as a slow digesting carbohydrate rather than a true fiber.
But do you need that much fiber to stay healthy? Perhaps not. Several different large reviews of dozens of studies have found that eating more fiber than the average person can reduce your risk of dying from both heart disease and cancer by at least 10%[*][*][*]. The benefits of eating fiber in these studies occurred with a total daily fiber intake between 18-26 grams, much lower than the USDA and NAS recommendations.

First off, there’s the taste. Consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. At the end of the day, if the sweet indulgence tastes more like a bar of chalk, then there is a high probability that consumers will not be running out to buy it. In my opinion, most companies have nailed this aspect down to some degree. The majority of bars, cookies, or other low-carb snacks that I have tried actually taste really good. However, even if a product can meet the consumer standards with respect to taste and quality, the true separation occurs at the level of fiber source. The buzz words “high-fiber” and “low net carbs” are exploding in today’s society. Thus, companies are attempting to find ways in which they can add fiber to their products, thereby boosting their nutritional profile and simultaneously decreasing the number of net carbs. This now prompts the question: are all fiber sources nutritionally the same, and if not, what does this mean for the consumer?


IMOs can be made in several ways, but they are primarily derived from a sugar called maltose. IMO is promoted as a prebiotic fiber with a light sweetness profile. Its functional properties (i.e., moisture retention, low viscosity) make it well-suited for nutrition bars, cookies, candies, and the like. In order to fully understand IMOs and how the body processes them, we first need to understand how starches are digested in the body. Starches, also known as polysaccharides, are long and sometimes branched chains of glucose molecules. Initially, starch digestion begins in the small intestine with an enzyme called α-amylase. A-amylase breaks these long glucose chains into much shorter chains, called oligosaccharides, which are composed of anywhere from two to approximately 10 glucose units. Following this, specific enzymes on the brush border of the small intestine break down these oligosaccharides even further, into individual glucose units (monosaccharides) which are then absorbed.
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