Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) – from seed to Eureba

Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) are found naturally in many foods, but may also be added to some products as bulk and to give sweetness. IMO itself is a dietary fibre, but is sold as syrup or powder which also contains sugars and other energy-giving carbohydrates. Despite this, IMO may be of use in sugar reduction. Let’s learn more about IMO's path from the cassava root to sweetened fibres.

14 November 2019 • and

Isomaltooligosaccharides is a long and com­pli­cat­ed name for dietary fibres found nat­u­ral­ly in sour­dough bread, soy sauce, miso and kom­bucha, but also extract­ed indus­tri­al­ly from starch. We use iso­ma­l­tooligosac­cha­rides made from tapi­o­ca – starch from cas­sa­va. In this arti­cle, we will be fol­low­ing the iso­ma­l­tooligosac­cha­rides route from cas­sa­va to our sweet­ened fibres – Eureba.

Confusion about isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO)

Isomaltooligosaccharides – or IMO as it is often abbre­vi­at­ed – meet the EU’s def­i­n­i­tion of dietary fibre (see aside). By def­i­n­i­tion, IMO does not degrade dur­ing diges­tion, but reach­es the large intes­tine large­ly unaffected.

Nevertheless, there are blog posts, pop­u­lar sci­ence arti­cles, and even sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles, which claim the oppo­site. How is it that?

This is main­ly because the name is used incor­rect­ly about prod­ucts that cer­tain­ly con­tain IMO, but also a lot of oth­er non-fibre carbohydrates.

The pro­por­tion of oth­er car­bo­hy­drates ranges from 10 up to 50 per­cent. It is this frac­tion that, dur­ing diges­tion, breaks down into glu­cose, which rais­es blood sug­ar and con­tributes calo­ries, while the iso­ma­l­tooligosac­cha­rides pass unchanged.

We will return to these prod­ucts at the end of this arti­cle. But let’s start from the begin­ning – with the cas­sa­va root, which is the source of IMO that we use in our sweet­ened fibres.


Cassava, also known as man­ioc and yuca, belongs to the euphor­bias. It is a plant fam­i­ly con­sist­ing of about 4,000 herbs, shrubs and trees. They grow main­ly in the warmest areas of the earth. There are only a hand­ful of wild species in Northern Europe.

Cassava can grow up to five meters tall, and bloom with pink flowers.

But it is not the cassava’s flow­ers that are inter­est­ing, but its large, tuber­ous roots, which can weigh up to ten kilos. It is a sta­ple food for mil­lions of peo­ple – mak­ing cas­sa­va one of the world’s most impor­tant crops.

Today, cas­sa­va is the main sta­ple food for 800 mil­lion people.

Cultivating cassava

Cassava is a trop­i­cal plant that thrives best when it is warm and sunny.

During May and June, cas­sa­va is plant­ed by tak­ing cut­tings that are put down into the soil at an inter­val of half a meter.

If the plants get heat, sun and water, the roots can be har­vest­ed after 6-7 months. In cold­er or dri­er weath­er, it takes longer. From 10 to 12, up to 18 months.

Most often, the cas­sa­va roots is har­vest­ed by sim­ply pulling them up by hand.

Preparation of cassava root

Cassava is tox­ic – like most euphor­bias. One of its most infa­mous rel­a­tives is ricin – whose seeds are so tox­ic that a sin­gle one is enough to kill a human.

But cas­sa­va is not that tox­ic. One should, how­ev­er, not eat the root as it is; it con­tains the two sub­stances lina­marin and lina­ma­rase which form prus­sic acid – hydro­gen cyanide – in con­tact with each other.

Therefore, cas­sa­va is pre­pared by peel­ing and mash­ing it, so that the two sub­stances come in con­tact with each oth­er and form hydro­gen cyanide. Then the water-sol­u­ble poi­son is leached out. In tra­di­tion­al prepa­ra­tion, liq­uid is squeezed out of the mash after being soaked in water for sev­er­al hours. This is repeat­ed sev­er­al times. In indus­tri­al prepa­ra­tion, the mash is cooked instead. As an extra pre­cau­tion, the pressed or cooked mash can also be heat­ed to allow residues of hydro­gen cyanide to evaporate.

Preparation of tapioca

The poi­son-free cas­sa­va mash can be used to pro­duce man­ioc flour and tapioca.

Traditionally, man­ioc flour is made by dis­solv­ing the cas­sa­va mash in water and com­press­ing it into tubes with small holes for water to seep out. The dry sub­stance that remains in the tube is man­ioc flour.

Tapioca is pro­duced from the water which is squeezed out of the tube. It con­tains a lot of starch. By heat­ing up the liq­uid, water is allowed to evap­o­rate, while the starch forms jel­ly-like lumps. It’s tapi­o­ca.

In indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion, the cas­sa­va is dis­solved in water and left to rest in sed­i­ment pools. Then resid­ual plants fall to the bot­tom. On top of it, pure starch is set­tled. And on top of that comes the man­ioc flour. When water has been removed, man­ioc flour can be scooped up, and then starch. The starch is then heat­ed in large pans, form­ing tapioca.

From tapioca to IMO

Isomaltooligosaccharides (IMO) is made from starch that can come from wheat, bar­ley, oats, peas, beans, lentils, pota­toes, rice – and not least tapioca.

Manufacturing begins with dis­solv­ing tapi­o­ca (or oth­er starch) in water and adding acid or enzymes, or both, and heat­ing the mix­ture. Then the starch, which is long chains of glu­cose mol­e­cules, is bro­ken up into small­er chains, which in turn is bro­ken up into even small­er and so on. This is called hydrol­y­sis, and results in a syrup con­sist­ing of glu­cose, mal­tose (two linked glu­cose mol­e­cules), mal­tooligosac­cha­rides (3-10 linked glu­cose mol­e­cules) and mal­todex­trin (11+ linked glu­cose molecules).

The goal is to get as many short malt oligosac­cha­rides as pos­si­ble and as lit­tle of the rest as pos­si­ble. For exam­ple, yeast can be added to feast on glu­cose, to get rid of it.

But even with­out glu­cose, the syrup is a calo­rie bomb that rais­es blood sug­ar lev­els. This is because the chains of glu­cose mol­e­cules are held togeth­er by a bond that is rapid­ly bro­ken up in the diges­tive sys­tem. These bonds are called α-(1→4).

The trick that creates fibres

The trick is to trans­form the α-(1→4) bonds, which the body quick­ly breaks down, with α-(1→6) bonds, which the body has much hard­er to crack.

The diges­tive sys­tem man­ages to split car­bo­hy­drates with a sin­gle α-(1→6) bond, but not car­bo­hy­drates with mul­ti­ple. The lat­ter pass unaf­fect­ed straight through to the large intes­tine. Therefore, no glu­cose is released, which would oth­er­wise raise blood sug­ar lev­els and pro­vide extra calories.

The con­ver­sion num­ber is made by an enzyme that changes bonds from α-(1→4) to α-(1→6) but leaves the car­bo­hy­drates unchanged oth­er­wise. Therefore, the con­vert­ed car­bo­hy­drates get the pre­fix iso which means equal in Latin.

This is how mal­tooligosac­cha­rides become isomaltooligosaccharides.

And since iso­ma­l­tooligosac­cha­rides are found nat­u­ral­ly in foods, have 3-10 glu­cose mol­e­cules and are not bro­ken down by diges­tion, they are by def­i­n­i­tion dietary fibres.

IMO syrup is not just IMO

The syrup that results from the man­u­fac­tur­ing method described above is often referred to as fibre syrup, IMO syrup or in short IMO. But that is mis­lead­ing; the syrup con­tains more than just IMO.

Firstly, far from all car­bo­hy­drates is con­vert­ed. Simply out, there are left­overs of short chains with the α-(1→4) bonds, that can be cleaved to give calo­ries and affect blood sug­ar levels.

Second, some of the mal­tose have been con­vert­ed to iso­ma­l­tose, which has only one α-(1→6) bond, which can be bro­ken up by the diges­tive system.

In oth­er words, IMO syrup does not just con­tain IMO. Commercially avail­able IMO syrups can con­sist of up to 50 per­cent sug­ars and oth­er ”fast carbohydrates”.

But there are also IMO syrups with high­er IMO con­cen­tra­tion – up to 98 percent.

IMO syrup can also be dried to a pow­der. Since the only thing that has been removed is water, it too con­tains many oth­er things that are not tru­ly IMO.

IMO in Eureba

IMO has some sweet­ness in itself, and togeth­er with the sug­ars and oth­er car­bo­hy­drates that inevitably ”is includ­ed in the pur­chase”, the sweet­ness can approach 60 per­cent of the sweet­ness of reg­u­lar sugar.

The inher­ent sweet­ness of IMO makes it inter­est­ing as an ingre­di­ent in sweet­ened fibres, which we devel­op and mar­ket under the trade­mark EUREBA®.

Sweetened fibres is a homo­ge­neous com­po­si­tion of dietary fibre, high-inten­si­ty sweet­en­er and oth­er ingre­di­ents. One kilo of sweet­ened fibres replaces one kilo of sug­ar in recipes with­out hav­ing to change pro­duc­tion. The pur­pose is to reduce calo­ries and the effect on blood sug­ar with­out chang­ing taste, mouth­feel and texture.

Protein bars and sim­i­lar prod­ucts are good exam­ples where sweet­ened fibres with IMO may be considered.


If you’ve read this far, you might be inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about Eureba. You might won­der if we have a ready-made solu­tion for your spe­cif­ic needs. (The prob­a­bil­i­ty is good. If not, we will pro­duce one for you.) If so, do not hes­i­tate to con­tact us. We are hap­py to answer ques­tions. Call us on tele­phone num­ber +46 8 613 28 88 or send us en email at [info@​bayn.​se

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