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Isomaltulose

(Last updated January 2017)

Isomaltulose is a sugar substitute found naturally in very small quantities in honey and sugar cane juice.

It contains glucose and fructose and therefore has similar properties to traditional sugars. FSANZ has approved the use of isomaltulose as a sugar substitute in food.

Isomaltulose provides the same amount of the energy as sucrose, but is digested more slowly, leading to lower and slower increases in blood glucose when compared to sucrose. It is suitable for use as a total or partial replacement for sucrose in certain foods.

Commercial isomaltulose can also be made from sucrose using enzymes.

Is isomaltulose safe?

For most people, yes. However, a FSANZ safety assessment (pdf 403 kb) suggests it is unsuitable for people with disorders in fructose metabolism, such as hereditary fructose intolerance. As isomaltulose is broken down into fructose and glucose in the digestive tract, people with this condition are likely to experience severe adverse effects. Anyone with fructose malabsorption may also be affected. Also, the safety assessment concluded that people who lack, or are deficient in, the enzyme sucrase-isomaltase and cannot digest sucrose, will not be able to digest isomaltulose either.

What foods could potentially contain isomaltulose?

  • beverages (soft drinks, instant drink preparations, teas, fruit or vegetable juices/drinks)
  • breakfast cereals and cereal bars
  • confectionery and chewing gum
  • fondants, icings and fillings
  • jams and marmalades
  • energy reduced foods and meal replacements.

If the food contains added isomaltulose, it will be declared in the ingredient list.

Are there any other substances that are permitted in foods that are unsuitable for individuals with disorders in fructose metabolism?

Yes. Tagatose and sorbitol are sugar substitutes that are approved for use in certain foods in the Food Standards Code. These substances should also be avoided by people with disorders in fructose metabolism. Both tagatose and sorbitol can be readily identified in the ingredients list. Sorbitol may be declared as 'sorbitol' or 'sorbitol syrup' or by its food additive code number 420.

 

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