Isomalto-Oligosaccharides and Protein Diet Bars

A relatively new ingredient, Isomalto-Oligosaccharides, is finding its way into meal replacement products. These are supplements that provide protein and vitamins to those actively pursuing better body appearance. Isomalto-Oligosaccharides add sweetness and fiber to aid feeling full. You’ve heard of Probiotics helping digestion. This ingredient is a PREBIOTIC. So…when lunching or snacking, should you reach for a meal replacement bar? This sounds too good to be true. So LifeDoc Lifetime is investigating this very long, complex-sounding ingredient. Is it useful for your weight management program?

Weight management or weight loss is a frustrating problem. Many people resort to nutritional supplements, in the form of shakes and bars as meal replacements. A few protein and fiber nutritionals supplements are using an ingredient IMO.Isomalto-Oligosaccharides are referred as IMO. Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMO) are applied as functional food ingredients but what are they and how are they metabolized by your body?

In a 2005 response from the FDA
, to BioNeutra (in response to marketing health products in the United States containing Isomalto-Oligosaccharides), the FDA made an allowance of up to 30 grams per day. The product that BioNeutra was applying for was VitaFiber
. The VitaFiber product is marketed as a low-calorie sweetener with fiber.

Quest Nutrition makes “healthy” meal replacement bars that offer 20 grams protein and 17 grams fiber, plus vitamins, in a meal replacement bar. Their list of ingredients show that Isomalto-Oligosaccharides are the second highest ingredient. According to nutrition panel listings, however, the number of IMO grams are absent.

Many protein diet replacement products use Soy as a protein source. Quest Protein Bar uses Whey Protein Isolate, that is a dairy-based protein derivative. For those sensitive to Soy, Whey Protein is considered a better, healthier source of protein.
Meal replacement bars are intended for use in body building so consumption in a sedentary lifestyle may reduce dietary benefits.

Use of IMO claims to be used as pre-biotic fiber that helps add to its low-glycemic index. Foods with low-glycemic indexes are seen as healthier choices for diabetics and those concerned with the effects of a sugar-rush from carbohydrates.

When you eat carbohydrates (carbs), there are simple and complex carbohydrates. As part of a typical diet, carbohydrates produce energy. Complex carbs take longer to metabolize than simple carbs and are reported to provide a longer, steadier stream of energy. Eating too many carbs is known as a leading cause of obesity or weight gain.

Diet replacement bars do have carbs and they do have sugar, though generally less sugar than a typical chocolate bar. You are also getting 15 to 20 grams of protein in the popular bars and up to 18 vitamins. Depending on the manufacturer, protein bars may have high-glycemic or low glycemic carbs and about 190 to 300 calories per 2-ounce average bar. The protein equivalent is comparable to 2-1/2 glasses of milk, 1 can of sardines, a serving of lunch meat or cheese. The carb equivalent is usually equal to or less than two slices of bread. Fat is generally less than salami, bologna, cheese, sardines, and 2-glasses of whole milk. The prime goal of the protein bar is convenience with some acquired taste. They are intended for use directly before or after an exercise.

The Quest Nutrition Bar uses Isomalto-Oligosaccharides as a sweetener and as a source of fiber. Fiber is believed to help fill you with intestinal bulk so your appetite is satiated for a longer periods of time. A Quest bar has 17 grams of fiber per bar, about 35% more than a serving of a high fiber cereal. The carb content of 25g is equivalent to a serving of All Bran or Fiber One but, with all that fiber, the net carb value is about 8 grams (though the manufacturer claims 3 grams). Protein is 20 grams from Whey Protein Isolate. The total fat is 5% (1% Saturated fat) is about the same as a serving of low-fat milk. There are no significant vitamin values but Quest, using IMO and a sugar alcohol, manages to deliver protein and fiber at around 160 calories.

As good as this Quest Protein Bar may sound, the State of California has issued a lawsuit against Quest Nutrition for false label claims. Quest denies this. The suit was filed December 2013 against Quest Nutrition and may not be resolved for a while.

The lawsuit contends that the fiber count is misleading. Using Isomalto-oligosaccharides (IMO) as the fiber source in their protein bar is also deemed natural because it is found in naturally fermented foods. It is a long chain molecule and it is much cheaper to manufacture it in factories by applying enzymes to various starch sources. Assuming this IMO is manufactured, is the fiber count valid as theory or as a bar nutrition claim? Then again, can we be sure that any nutrition panel is a valid representation of its nutritive contents?

A competitor of Quest Protein Bar is the ISS Research Victory Bar and its nutritive claim is similar to the Quest Protein bar but with 20 grams of fiber. Instead of listing IMO as a fiber source, the Victory Bar lists natural Prebiotic Fiber Syrup (tapioca). Guess what? It is an IMO because IMO is found naturally in barley, corn, pulses (peas, beans, lentils) oats, tapioca, rice, potato, and other starchy foods.

The reason why the FDA approved IMO in the first place is that IMO is a multifunctional health molecule which exerts positive effects on human digestive health, as a prebiotic. IMO is finding global acceptance by food manufacturers for use in a wide range of food products as a source of dietary fiber in foods that may not naturally contain fiber. China and Japan have been manufacturing IMO for decades but, in the USA, it is considered a novel ingredient. Being a novel food ingredient, there wasn’t any producer of IMO in North America and Europe, until recently when BioNeutra Inc. started to manufactured this product with the trade name of VitaFiber-IMO.

IMO may be under-tested but is generally reported to have no side effects. A study in 2001 demonstrated that IMO may have cholesterol management benefits. An Asian study contends that an IMO may inhibit tumor growth in mice.

Basically, all drugs and nutritional products have benefits and consequences measured to particular scales. What those scales might be is a question. Overeating carbs has been linked to obesity and overeating fats have been linked to arterial disease. Obesity is a disease even though some obese people live long lifespans.

Your body likes status-quo. It requires calories as energy, either from carbs, fat, or protein. If you are overweight, the body will struggle to remain overweight.

Your body doesn’t care whether you’re obese and whether your clothes sizes are getting larger. There are calorie calculators that help you establish calorie goals to trick your body to function on fewer calories, burning carbs or fats. If you restrict carbs to a bare minimum, the body will metabolize your fat as fuel. That’s a great way to lose fat easily.

Exercise and movement stimulate calorie loss and aid fat loss and muscle gain. Protein is an essential dietary factor for body maintenance and muscle tone. Protein calculators are helpful in guessing your daily protein needs for sedentary, moderately active, and active lifestyles. When you are monitoring calorie consumption and use, reduced fat intake and carb intake, protein bar supplements are helpful instead of that egg sandwich at McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, or diner.

The United States Department of Agriculture offers many healthful hints to eat healthy and manage weight. As part of a conscientious diet and exercise initiative, your body’s size and energy levels may improve over reasonable time. There’s no quick-fix. Time is a factor. Think how long it took you to get overweight. Supplemental use of protein nutrition bars help support goals as needed.

Here is a list of Protein Bars:

Soy Protein Bars

Whey Protein Bars

Only 2 Protein Bars, Quest and ISS Victory Bar, use Isomalto-Oligosaccharides. Many love them but there is a pending suit about nutritive claims.

I use Clif Builders bars and Promax before or after exercise.

Avoid protein bars that say “No Sugar Added”. These may be untasty or use sugar alcohols to simulate sweetness. Sugar alcohols are not viewed as sugars. Many sugar alcohols are natural but a couple (Maltitol and Mannitol) may have a laxative effect if eaten to excess. Sugar alcohols do not intoxicate but are part of the alcohol family. They are lower glycemic and reduce nutritive carb values. Taste is an issue and these do contain calories.

I’ve tried Quest Nutrition. They taste great but they cost twice as much and, there are virtually no known negative effects of Isomalto-Oligosaccharides, I’m taking a wait-&-see approach. While Isomalto-Oligosaccharides are seen as a naturally occurring prebiotic, it is likely that most of the IMO is manufactured outside of the USA in Asian labs. Even though the FDA claims up to 30-45 grams per day is safe, I’m concerned about the purity of this product that is likely not manufactured under direct USA approval.

Isomalto-oligosaccharide is a mixture of short-chain carbohydrates which has a digestion-resistant property. Raw materials used for manufacturing IMO are starches similar to those found in foods, which is enzymatically converted into a mixture of Isomalto-=oligosaccharide. Most of the consumer products are sourced outside the USA, particularly Canada.

Non-digestible oligosaccharides are low molecular weight carbohydrates found in nature between simple sugars and polysaccharides. They can be obtained by direct extraction from natural sources, or produced by chemical processes hydrolyzing polysaccharides, or by enzymatic and chemical synthesis from disaccharides. IMO possesses important physicochemical and physiological properties, and are claimed to behave as dietary fibers and prebiotics. Increased understanding of the metabolism of prebiotic inulin and oligosaccharides by probiotics are facilitating development

Many food scientists around the world are excited about IMO and its potential dietary benefits. It adds sweetness and fiber to foods, making them more dietary efficient. Nonetheless, use of synthesized IMO as supplements to food is basically 21st-century technology and further research is recommended.

Quest Nutrition Bars and Victory Bars are popular among athletes and active individuals seeking to optimize performance potentials. Many claim they are tasty. At 160 to 180 calories and 20 grams of protein, with or without its claimed fiber, these (protein supplement) bars may be influential in starting your journey to seeing positive results in a weight management program. Just be sure that they are only part of your dietary intake. A balanced diet and moderate exercise program is still advised as a long-term lifestyle approach.

Unlike most candy bars, protein bars are an acquired taste. They generally come in many flavors and flavor preferences are person-specific. Try an assortment first. While Isomalto-Oligosaccharides may sound complex, it is likely to be discussed, litigated and explored further as a beneficial or consequential approach to dietary health today and tomorrow.

It is mind over your body’s need to maintain status-quo. Aging automatically reduces lean muscles and fat naturally accumulates. A weight management lifestyle is no easy task. Make realistic expectations. Protein bars are convenient ways to help you gain advantages to lose weight. It’s an advantage but not an end. Weight management is a conscious effort but very rewarding for health and appearance.