Is IMO a fibre or a carb?

Sharyn Carter

IMO doesn’t only stand for In My Opinion. There’s an ingredient called Isomalto-oligosaccharide (pronounced as i_so_malt_o_og_le_o_sac_ha_ride) or IMO in a much easier to say short form.

IMO is a type of carbohydrate found naturally, typically in the form of Tapioca Starch made from Cassava root. You’ll see IMO show up in ingredients listings as fibre syrup, tapioca starch or just IMO. In products it is used for giving texture, flavour and fibre and keeping food naturally made, without artificial additives.

In Australia IMO is a novel (new) food and because the fibre testing method wasn’t approved, it has always been treated as a carbohydrate. However in the USA, IMO was being tested and classified as a dietary fibre, which was treated as having zero or lower carbs. 

Carbs get metabolised and converted into energy in the body. Fibre passes on through without getting metabolised, so there’s no conversion to energy from fibre.

How carbs and fibre are counted matters to those following a Keto way of life, because it can take a food item off the menu as being no longer even Low Carb.  
Total Carbs less Dietary Fibre = Net Carbs
If dietary fibre is too high, and carbs are too low, it misrepresents the way IMO is processed in the body. 

Due to testing methods being conducted in the USA, recent insights have been brought to light regarding how IMO is processed in the body. Where IMO was once considered a dietary fibre in the USA, it is now being deemed as a carb.

By following the USA approach, many sauces and products based on fibre syrups have been marketed as having zero / lower carbs. But due to the testing changes, now their carbs are understated on their nutritional panels.

Lollies like Funday which are made in Australia have already split out their carbs, with
• the majority as non-available (fibre that just passes on through un-metabolised)
• the minority as available carbs (gets converted into energy and counts in daily macros).
By distinguishing the types of carbs information, it’s a better representation of exactly how that product travels through your body, giving reassurance it’s accounted for correctly.

So be wary where you see fibre syrup IMO ingredients + high fibre values, without them being broken down into available and unavailable carbs! Due to the changing carb classification, they may have higher carbs than what you are seeing on the nutritional panel.  

Additionally with fibre syrups being a liquid, they reach the stomach much quicker than food does and their effect on the body happens faster. Whereas IMO in more solid food like lollies, are wrapped up with other food ingredients like inulin and gelatine, and take more time when travelling to the stomach giving a slower release of energy. Blood sugar impacts are a whole other discussion, and so I have left that for another topic.