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Isomaltose - A definition and examples

Isomaltose is a lesser-known member of the carbohydrate family. As a disaccharide composed of two glucose molecules linked by an α-1,6-glycosidic bond, isomaltose has some distinct characteristics. For example, Isomaltose has different digestibility properties than other sugars like maltose. It can have a slower absorption rate, leading to a slower and more controlled release of glucose into our bloodstream, and it does not contribute to tooth decay and for these reasons has been used as an alternative sweetener. Isomaltulose is an approved sweetener in many countries including Australia and New Zealand.

Like other carbohydrates, isomaltose is used as an energy source by our bodies. It is broken down in our small intestine into separate glucose molecules, which are absorbed into our bloodstream and transported to our cells for energy production. It contains the same amount of energy (kilojoules/calories) as regular table sugar (sucrose).

Isomaltose - A definition

Isomaltose, chemically known as 6-O-α-D-glucopyranosyl-D-glucopyranose, is a disaccharide composed of two glucose molecules connected by an α-1,6-glycosidic bond. Chemically, it closely resembles maltose; however, the unique alpha 1-6 linkage differentiates it from its more common counterpart. This structural variance leads to distinct biochemical properties, applications and how our bodies process it when compared to Maltose.

What everyday foods contain isomaltose? 

Isomaltose can be found in some natural foods, including honey and certain plants. 

Honeybees convert nectar into honey, and during this process, enzymes in their digestive systems break down complex sugars (like starch) into simpler sugars, including isomaltose.

Isomaltose occurs naturally in small amounts in some foods such as:

  • Honey
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Legumes
  • Root vegetables 

Health and digestibility of isomaltose

Research has indicated that isomaltose, due to its α-1,6-glycosidic linkage, can have different digestive properties when compared to other sugars like maltose, sucrose or glucose. This unique linkage can change how the body processes and absorbs isomaltose, impacting the body’s glycemic response. 

Studies exploring the impact of isomaltose on blood sugar levels and digestive processes are still ongoing, but there are some promising indications that there are potential benefits for individuals with specific dietary needs, like people with diabetes. Isomaltose is digested more slowly and has a lower glycemic impact, which can help maintain more optimal blood glucose levels. 

Isomaltose is commonly used in a range of sugar-free and low-sugar products as a substitute for sucrose, which enables individuals with diabetes to enjoy sweet-tasting foods and beverages without significantly affecting their blood sugar levels.

It is important to note that individual responses to sugars and sugar alternatives can vary, and people with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels and work with healthcare professionals to determine how isomaltose consumption may affect their personal health and glucose management. 



Synthesis of isomaltose and nigerose from maltose by enzymatic liver and muscle proteins from rabbits with alloxan diabetes G VK - Voprosy meditsinskoi khimii, 

Low Glycemic Index Prototype Isomaltulose—Update of Clinical Trials

Constanze Christin Maresch,1 Sebastian Friedrich Petry,1 Stephan Theis,2 Anja Bosy-Westphal,3 and Thomas Linn1,*

Lina BA, Jonker D, Kozianowski G. Isomaltulose (Palatinose): a review of biological and toxicological studies. Food Chem Toxicol. 2002 Oct;40(10):1375-81. doi: 10.1016/s0278-6915(02)00105-9. PMID: 12387299.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). Isomaltulose. Available at 

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