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IMO is a carbohydrate. That’s been established, but it’s still masquerading as a fiber in most protein bars. The FDA has yet to classify IMO as a digestible carbohydrate, but it’s suspected they will do so in 2017. So what does this mean to you as a consumer and someone who obsesses about what they put in their body? Pretty simple, check your ingredients labels.
IMO, (or Isomalto-Oligosaccharide as it might appear on your protein bar label) is considered a “naturally occurring” fiber. Initial studies on IMO showed promise because in simulated digestion models, the dietary fiber didn’t break down in stomach acids. However, further research concluded that the initial tests failed to test enzymes in the small intestine. Additional human studies uncovered the truth behind IMO, it’s not a fiber at all, but good ol’ carbs.
So where does this leave the consumer when they’re shopping for their protein bars? First and foremost, do your own research on which brands are still using IMO. Each person reacts differently to IMO when it comes to blood sugar, but staying on the precautious side before the FDA makes a ruling is probably a good practice.
Due to the lax naming conventions for ingredients on the nutrition label, bar manufacturers and ingredients suppliers can call IMO a number of different things. Here are a few other names for IMO:
* Dietary fiber from tapioca starch
* Prebiotic fiber
* Soluble Tapioca Fiber
If you see IMO or any of these other names, you should count total carbs not net carbs. Also, it should be noted that other forms of fiber that are not IMO share very similar names – this is not unintentional by the protein bar manufacturers using IMO in their bars.
One thing is for sure – as soon as the FDA and makes their ruling, you can expect a lot of protein bar manufacturers to begin scrambling to update their nutrition facts. There’s one of two outcomes, either they amend the carbohydrate content on their nutrition labels to reveal what you’re actually putting in your body, or they’ll seek out, better, more metabolically true fiber sources. Either way, it’s a win for the consumer.
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