Taken together, the above studies prompt the question: What is the prebiotic activity of SCF? If it is a true fiber, per our definitions above, then SCF should have a beneficial effect on gut microbiome bacteria. A study performed in 24 adolescents noted an increase in beneficial bacteria (e.g., Bacteroides, Butyricicoccus, Oscillibacter, and Dialister). Furthermore, this was correlated with an increase in calcium absorption upon the consumption of 12 grams of SCF per day for three weeks. An additional study, which administered 8, 14, and 21 grams of SCF over 14 days, found that good bacteria (e.g., Bifidobacteria) increased and peaked at 8 grams per day. This value is nearly identical to inulin, which is considered the “gold standard.” Despite its nearly parallel effects to inulin at 8 grams/day, research has demonstrated that SCF is 3-4 times more tolerable than inulin due to its slower rate of digestibility by the gut bacteria. In fact, 26 grams of SCF barely increased GI symptoms relative to a placebo!
To figure out the correct amount of fiber for your body, try experimenting. If you’re on the keto diet, start with 15-20 grams of total dietary fiber per day from a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber for several weeks, then consider adding 3-5 grams at a time as needed to see how you feel. Remember that some people actually feel worse when they boost their fiber intake[*][*][*].
There are two general categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Fibrous foods typically contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. As a society, we understand the importance of fiber, including the benefits related to lowering body fat, decreasing the prevalence of diabetes, improving insulin sensitivity, decreasing the risk of heart disease and increasing satiety, as well as the beneficial bacteria in our digestive system. Unfortunately, less than 5% of Americans actually meet the 30 gram per day recommended intake. To help increase fiber consumption, an increasing number of companies have developed a host of delicious, low-carb, high-fiber treats. Despite this, it is important to understand how our bodies process two of the most common “fibers” on the market that are used in these treats: isomaltooligosaccharides (IMOs) and soluble corn fiber (SCF).
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?
The increased awareness regarding the importance of fiber, in addition to its distinct metabolic effects, has resulted in a surge of companies switching to an alternative fiber known as soluble corn fiber (SCF). Interestingly, SCF has been available on the US market since 2007 and is used in foods and beverages across the Americas, Europe, and Southeast Asia. SCF is produced through an extensive process: corn syrup is exposed to a suite of enzymes for at least 48 hours, some of which are found in the brush border of your small intestine, as well as the pancreas. Notably, a large majority of the corn syrup contains easily digestible carbohydrates; however, a small portion is, in fact, not digestible. At the end of this enzymatic exposure, a stream of digestion-resistant carbohydrates remains and is subsequently filtered several times. The resulting product is a “true fiber” that contains a mixture of α-1,6, α-1,4, α-1,2, and α-1,3 glucosidic linkages, which, as mentioned above, contribute to its low digestibility.
Nutrition DataMacros are provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. This information is calculated using MyFitnessPal.com. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
Thus far, we have established what IMO is and how its structure can differ in regard to its carbon bonds. The real question is, “What are the metabolic responses of products that contain these IMOs?” The glycemic index of IMO is very low, however, it has been shown to be nearly completely digested (83 % or more) by enzymes on the small intestinal border. Thus, IMOs should not necessarily be classified as a true fiber but rather as a low glycemic carbohydrate like steel cut oatmeal, at about 3.3 calories per gram.
Dr. Ryan P. Lowery is the CEO of Ketogenic.com, author of The Ketogenic Bible, President of the Applied Science and Performance Institute and KetoPhD™. His mission is to spread awareness around the Ketogenic Lifestyle and its’ many benefits beyond body composition. He earned his BS and MS in exercise physiology and exercise and nutrition science from the University of Tampa and completed his doctorate work at Concordia University in Health and Human Performance with a focus on “The Effects of a Well-Formulated Ketogenic Diet and Exogenous Ketone Supplementation on Various Markers of Health and Body Composition in Healthy and Diseased Populations.” Over his career, Ryan has published over 150 papers, abstracts, and book chapters on human performance and sports nutrition and has dedicated his life to educating the masses. In his free time, Ryan enjoys spending time with his best friend, Scoot the Keto Pup, jet skiing, and traveling around the world. The way to his heart is through a good glass of wine and Keto desserts.
Depending on where you are going on vacation, you may have a measure of control over what you will be eating. For Keto dieters who are staying at a hotel and will be traveling from tourist spot to tourist spot, check with your hotel and see what kind of meal options their restaurant offers or whether there’s a continental breakfast. There may be fewer Keto-friendly options to choose from, but you will likely be able to find something to enjoy. Also, when out traveling, be sure to stop at grocery stores and purchase some Keto-friendly snacks that travel well, such as cured meats or cheeses, which can help keep you from overindulging.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary, and testimonials are not claimed to represent typical results. All testimonials are by real people, and may not reflect the typical purchaser’s experience, and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.
One of the first studies to examine IMO syrups had six subjects consume 25 grams of IMO syrup. These researchers found that glucose levels increased from 109 mg/dL pre-ingestion to a peak of 136 mg/dL 30 min post-ingestion. Additionally, insulin rose to nearly parallel levels with that of glucose from 4.8 μU/mL pre-ingestion to nearly 32 μU/mL at 30 min post-ingestion. These values clearly indicate that some digestion is occurring. Furthermore, these researchers found that IMO was about 83% as digestible as maltose under resting conditions and about 69% as digestible after the exercise period. Taken together, this suggests that a large majority of the carbohydrate in the IMO syrup was, in fact, digested, absorbed, and metabolized.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
Yes I am telling you that eating a special treat here and there is totally ok. Also do NOT beat yourself up for having a treat here and there. It is NOT cheating, remember Keto is a life style change and treats in moderation at special times like vacations, birthdays and holidays I am all for. I find that those little treats here and there make sticking to keto a lot easier.
Lastly, one of the advertised benefits of IMO is possible prebiotic activity. Prebiotics are critical, as they feed the beneficial bacteria in our digestive system, specifically in the large intestine. These bacteria have several amazing functions, such as lowering body fat, improving insulin sensitivity, and lowering depression. Two “gold standard” prebiotics in the industry are inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Inulin and FOS are non-digestible carbohydrates that robustly increase beneficial bacteria. The challenge, however, is that both inulin and FOS, due to their rapid digestibility by intestinal bacteria, result in low gastric tolerance, and, ultimately, gastric distress. Additionally, inulin and FOS, when added to protein bars or other goods, may degrade over time into individual sugar units. Regardless, one study comparing inulin to IMOs, found that the prebiotic activity in inulin is 14 times greater than that of IMOs. This is logical because, as you recall from above, approximately 70% to 90% of IMOs are digested. As such, only a small portion of these prebiotic fibers make it to the large intestine, in which two out of three studies have demonstrated that this small portion may indeed have some prebiotic effects.