Isomalt is an excellent tasting sugar-free
sweetner. Products made with isomalt have the same texture and
appearance as those made with sugar. Derived from sugar, isomalt's
health benefits and stability make it a versatile and valuable
ingredient for numerous reduced-calorie foods and pharmaceuticals.
Isomalt is a unique, excellent tasting sugar-free bulk
sweetener. Because the same amount of isomalt is used in products as
would be used if they were sweetened with sugar, isomalt-containing
products have the same appearance and texture as those made with sugar.
Discovered in the 1960s, isomalt is made from sucrose and looks much
like table sugar. It is white, crystalline and odorless. Isomalt is a
mixture of two disaccharide alcohols: gluco-mannitol and gluco-sorbitol.
Isomalt has been used in the United States for several years in
products such as hard candies, toffees, chewing gum, chocolates, baked
goods, nutritional supplements, cough drops and throat lozenges. It has
been available in Europe, however, since the early 1980s and is
currently used in a wide variety of products in more than 70 countries
Isomalt offers benefits that suit changing life-styles and
contemporary guidelines for healthy diets. It enlarges food choices for
the growing number of people who would like to make moderate, but not
extreme, improvements in their diet. It is ideal for consumers who want
to adopt a healthier lifestyle, as long as foods still taste good.
Because of its lower caloric value and other health benefits,
isomalt is useful for people who are
trying to reduce their total energy intake moderately while still being
able to enjoy
their favorite desserts, candy, and other sweetened foods occasionally
as part of meals or snacks.
How Isomalt is Made
The two-step process begins with sucrose. First, an enzyme
rearranges the linkage between glucose and fructose in sucrose. In the
second step, two hydrogens are added to an oxygen in the fructose
portion of the disaccharide. Approximately half of the fructose portion
of the original disaccharide is converted to mannitol and about half of
the fructose portion of the original disaccharide is converted to
sorbitol. Therefore, isomalt contains two different disaccharide
alcohols: gluco-mannitol and gluco-sorbitol.
The molecular changes that occur in these steps make isomalt more
stable - chemically and
- than sucrose. Isomalt’s stability is the reason for many of its
health benefits and the large variety of products which it can improve.
How Isomalt is Used
Besides the characteristics that result from isomalt’s volume and
texture, isomalt can be heated without losing its sweetness or being
broken down. Therefore, it is predominantly used in products that are
boiled, baked or subjected to higher temperatures.
Isomalt absorbs very little water. Therefore, products made with it
tend not to become sticky. This means that candies, for example, can be
put into a packet without each being wrapped separately, a convenient
and appealing attribute for environmentally conscious consumers.
Another advantage, resulting from this property is that, since the
products do not absorb moisture, they have a longer shelf life.
Isomalt enhances flavor transfer in foods. It dissolves more slowly
in the mouth so that candies with isomalt have a longer lasting taste .
Isomalt does not have the often undesired “cooling” effect of some
other polyols. Its sensory properties make isomalt an excellent
ingredient for candies, chocolates, baked products and flavored
applications such as fruit flavored candy, coffee and chocolate.
Isomalt’s sweetening power depends on its concentration, temperature
and the form of the product in which it is used. When used alone, it
contributes 45% to 65% of the sweetness that would result from the same
amount of sucrose.
Multiple Ingredient Usage
Isomalt is often used in combination with intense sweeteners.
Isomalt gives products bulk, texture and mild sweetness, while the
intense sweetener brings the level of sweetness up to what it would be
if sugar were used. An additional advantage of such combined usage is
that isomalt tends to mask the bitter aftertaste of some intense
sweeteners. Synergistic effects in sweetening power occur when isomalt
is combined with either intense sweeteners or other volume providing
How the Body Uses Isomalt
Isomalt, like all polyols, is a low digestible carbohydrate which is
only partially digested in the intestines. In the lower part of the
intestinal tract, the non-absorbed portion is metabolized by colonic
Isomalt’s physiological characteristics are a result of this process:
Isomalt does not promote tooth decay, has a very low blood glucose
effect (low glycemic response), has an effect like dietary fiber in the
gut and has only half of the caloric value of sucrose.
In more detail:
Lower Caloric Value: For food labeling purposes in
the United States, an energy value of only 2 calories per gram is used
for isomalt. Isomalt's lower caloric value is partly due to the fact
that intestinal enzymes are not able to easily hydrolyze its more
stable disaccharide bond. Less of it is digested and, therefore, less
absorbed from the small intestine into the blood, and this happens
Supports Gut Health: Daily intake of 30 g isomalt
was demonstrated to promote an increase of the “good” bacteria in the
large intestine, the bifidobacteria, demonstrating the prebiotic effect
of isomalt. The water-binding property of isomalt may influence the
structure of the content of the gut, making it softer. If the
consistency of the faeces is too soft, it can be regulated by cutting
down intake and allowing some time for adaptation. Like dietary fibers,
isomalt is broken down by the gut bacteria to so called short chain
fatty acids (SCFA) and gases. SCFA have the advantage of decreasing
acidity in the large intestine and some SCFA are discussed as being
beneficial for a healthy epithelium in the large intestine.
Less Dental Caries Risk: Isomalt is
anti-cariogenic and does not promote dental caries, because oral
bacteria cannot readily convert it into decay causing acids. Therefore,
the acidic conditions that lead to tooth demineralization do not
develop after consuming isomalt, as occurs after eating sugar and other
fermentable carbohydrates. Furthermore, isomalt cannot be converted by
oral bacteria into polyglucan, the substance from which dental plaque
Isomalt can help repair early dental caries lesions. Its sweet taste
stimulates the production of saliva, thus reducing acidity and
increasing calcium levels on the tooth surface. These changes
facilitate remineralization of areas previously damaged by acidic
conditions in the mouth due to fermentable carbohydrate consumption.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers of
sugar-free isomalt-containing products to make the health claim, “Does
not promote dental caries,” if those products do not reduce plaque pH
to less than 5.7 during or for up to 30 minutes after consumption.
Very low blood glucose and insulin response: Due to
the metabolism described above, isomalt hardly influences blood glucose
or insulin after intake as demonstrated in a number of studies, thus
isomalt is very low glycemic. Isomalt is an ingredient, a useful tool
within the total diet, that can contribute to providing low glycemic
products to consumers interested in this health benefit. In particular
those consumers are addressed that are interested in a healthy
lifestyle (management and prevention of obesity, diabetes etc., being
on a ‘low carb diet’). There is a growing body of evidence that shows
that a low glycemic diet can help in the management and prevention of
obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- is made from sugar
- is used in a variety of foods, nutraceuticals and
- provides the taste and texture of sugar
- is synergistic with other sweeteners
- provides at most 2 calories per gram
- does not promote dental caries
- does not increase blood glucose or insulin levels
A petition to affirm the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status
of isomalt has been accepted for filing by the FDA. Isomalt has been
used in the United States since 1990. It is marketed in the U.S. by
Palatinit of America, Inc., Morris Plains, New Jersey.
The World Health Organization’s Joint Expert
Committee on Food
Additives (JECFA) evaluated the safety of isomalt and concluded that
there is no need for a numeric (limited) acceptable daily intake (ADI).
JEFCA established an ADI for isomalt of “not specified,” the safest
category in which JECFA can place a food ingredient.
Reprinted From: Calorie Control