Isomalt is an excellent tasting sugar-free sweetener. 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.
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.
It has been used 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 since the early 1980s and is currently used in a wide variety of products in more than 70 countries worldwide.
Isomalt offers benefits that suit changing lifestyles and contemporary guidelines for healthy diets. It increases the availability of 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, by perhaps adopting a sugar free diet, while still being able to enjoy their favorite desserts, candy, and other sweetened foods occasionally as part of meals or snacks.
Facts About Isomalt
- Is made from sugar
- Is used in a variety of foods, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals
- 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
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 Approach to Calorie Control
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 sweeteners
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 bacteria.
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, low glycemic index), has an effect like dietary fiber in the gut and has only half of the caloric value of sucrose.