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Isomalto-Oligosaccharide: The Natural Prebiotic Plant Fiber, Explained.

Shawn Sherwood


Jan 2nd, 2015

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A general rule of thumb for reading ingredients on the back of food labels these days is “if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not natural”. Not so fast there. Isomalto-Oligosaccharide is the exception to the rule.


Isomalto-Oligosaccharide is a naturally occurring plant-based dietary fiber. It is prebiotic, soluble, and low-glycemic. The various health benefits of IMO can be as confusing as the name itself but have no fear, I’m here to explain them.


Prebiotics are a category of functional food, defined as non-digestible food ingredients that ferment in the large intestine and beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth, proliferation and maintenance of beneficial gut microbiota. Basically, prebiotic fiber is food for our digestive flora, those living bacteria that contribute to our health and wellbeing. 


Dietary fibers are plant-based. They pass through our digestive system without being broken down. They make gastric motility easier because they absorb water while passing through our stomach. There are two types of fiber:  soluble and insoluble.


Soluble fiber dissolves in water whereas insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber forms a gel like consistency in the stomach that slows stomach emptying. The delay of stomach emptying keeps the body feeling fuller longer, which is why fiber is so important to weight loss and weight management goals.  Soluble fiber also helps block the absorption of cholesterol which is beneficial and reduces the risk of heart disease.  


Fermentation of IMO by colonic bacteria results in production of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA) that metabolize in liver and confer many physiological benefits to the host including: protection from colonic cancer, stabilize blood glucose levels, decrease cholesterol synthesis, lowering the digestive tracts pH which allows for an increase absorption of dietary minerals and help stimulate the immune function.


The FDA-GRAS document describes IMO as being safe up to 15g/serving and up to 30gm/day without digestive discomfort. 

So, continue to add fiber to your daily diet routine!



 1.  PDRNS. 2001. Prebiotics. in: PDR for Nutritional Supplements (1st Ed.). Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR); Demoines, Iowa/Medical Economics Data Production Company; Montvale, New Jersey, pp. 372-375.

2.    Tungland, B.C.; Meyer, D. 2002. Nondigestible oligo-and polysaccharides (dietary fiber): Their physiology and role in human health and food. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Safety 3:73-92.

3.  Dietary Reference Intakes Proposed Definition of Dietary Fiber.  A report of the panel of the Definitionn of Dietary Fiber and the Standing Committee of the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes.  Food and Nutrition Board.  Institute of Medicinae.  National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.  2001. 

4.  Chow J.  Probiotics and Prebiotics.  A brief overview.  J. Ren. Nutrition.  2002; 12(2): 76-86.

6 Responses to Isomalto-Oligosaccharide: The Natural Prebiotic Plant Fiber, Explained.

  1. Anna 03/02/2015 at 11:51 pm

    where can I buy isomalto-oligosaccharide?

    • Customer Care 09/02/2015 at 8:36 am

      Hi Anna, as far as we know it is unavailable in pill form, but if you are looking for natural sources of prebiotics we would suggest looking at Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal and legumes, which are also great sources of fiber. I hope this information was helpful. ~Shasta

  2. Lisa gosweiler 20/03/2015 at 7:40 pm

    This ingredient is listed in quest bars but no exact amount is given in grams or otherwise. It does say 17 g of fiber. I have been eating them daily as a source of fiber and have noticed extreme intestinal discomfort and bloating. I initially did not think it to be caused by the quest bars, but after eliminating all other possible sources it is all I am left with. Have you heard of this side effect before? Any help with this matter would be greatly appreciated.
    Lisa Gosweiler

    • Customer Care 21/03/2015 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Lisa, from our understanding exceeding the daily recommended amount of Isomalto-Oligosacchride of 30gm/day can cause some intestinal discomfort. Since the Quest bars are not our product, your best route would be to contact Quest directly at Have a great weekend. ~Thomas

  3. Mark 23/05/2016 at 7:34 am


    BioNeutra sells IMO under the VitaFiber name.

  4. Rique Sollisch 21/07/2016 at 6:33 am

    I am reading food product ingredient labels to make sure there is no corn.When a label indicates “plant-based” I am suspect. Vegetable blend is another term I am finding, in oil, for example. May I assume its unsafe for me and my highly reactive adverse response to corn and its uses in practically all food?

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