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What is Isomalto-Oligosaccharide (IMO)?

Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) is the overriding name given to a mixtures of oligosaccharides such as isomaltulose, panose, isomaltotriose and isomaltotetraose. Commercial IMO powders typically differ in their composition. Some IMO powders can contain up to 40% disaccharides plus substantial proportions of maltose and glucose1-3. IMO’s are characterised by a-(1→6) and a-(1→4) linkages which are both broken down at much slower rates than say the a-(1→2) linkages found in sugar. The slower rate of breakdown is responsible for IMO’s categorisation as prebiotics (i.e. fiber). 

Where Does Isomalto-Oligosaccharide Come From?

IMO are produced commercially from maltodextrins (which in turn comes from starch) but occur naturally in Japanese fermented foods such as miso, soy sauce and sako.

Isomalto-Oligosaccharide Benefits

Because IMO resist digestion in the small intestine, most of their benefits are related to their ability to act in a similar manner to dietary fiber.


For example, one study in elderly men that were severely constipated found that administration of 10 g of IMO for 4 weeks improved the defecation frequency using a placebo-controlled and diet-controlled design4.

In another similar trial (albeit longer i.e. 8 weeks) IMO supplementation into a low-fiber diet improved colonic microflora profile and bowel movement in a time-dependent fashion in constipated elderly subjects with an average age of 82.5 years3.

Bifidogenic & Short Chain Fatty Acids

Several studies have suggested that IMO has bifidogenic properties5-7, which means they are effective at boosting the level of beneficial bifidobacteria. Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are generally considered beneficial metabolites of colonic microbiota and several studies in humans have demonstrated increased SCFA concentrations after consumption of up to 10g per day of IMO3, 4.

Isomalto-Oligosaccharide Safety and Side Effects

IMO have very minimal adverse side effects as they are tolerated very well, even when taken in large doses2. This is in contrast with other popular non-digestable oligosaccharides like inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides.

Isomalto-Oligosaccharide Recommended Doses and Timing

Most studies have used a dose of 10g per day, but doses of up to 20g per day are not uncommon and don’t carry any additional risk of side effects such as bloating.

Isomalto-Oligosaccharide Supplements

Stand alone IMO supplements are hard to find, however, IMO are becoming increasingly popular as a primary ingredient in protein bars, with Quest Bars being the most well known example. Timing of IMO intake is not thought to effect its efficacy and therefore it remains at the users discretion.

Stacking Isomalto-Oligosaccharide

Being a prebiotic substance, IMO can be combined with almost any type of supplement as dictated by an individual’s age, diet and fitness goals.



  1. Kohmoto T, et al. Metabolism of 13C-isomaltooligosaccharides in healthy men. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1992;56:937–940.
  2. Kaneko T, et al. Effects of isomaltooligosaccharides with different degrees of polymerization on human fecal bifidobacteria. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1994;58:2288–2290.
  3. Yen CH, et al. Long-term supplementation of isomalto-oligosaccharides improved colonic microflora profile, bowel function, and blood cholesterol levels in constipated elderly people--a placebo-controlled, diet-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2011;27(4):445-50.
  4. Chen H-L, Lu YH, Lin JJ, Ko LY. Effects of isomalto-oligosaccharides on bowel functions and indicators of nutritional status in constipated elderly men. J Am Coll Nutr 2001;20:44–9.
  5. Kohmoto T, et al. Dose-response test of isomaltooligosaccharides for increasing fecal bifidobacteria. Agric Biol Chem. 1991;55: 2157–2159.
  6. Kohmoto T, et al. Metabolism of 13C-isomaltooligosaccharides in healthy men. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1992;56:937–940.
  7. Kohomto T, et al. Effect of isomalto-oligosaccharides on human fecal flora. Bifidobacteria Microflora. 1988;7:61–69.
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