Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

isomalt is a polyol, or sugar alcohol. It is a colorless, odorless hydrogenated disaccharide that is used as a sugar substitute to replace sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, fructose, and the like in foods and drinks. Isomalt was discovered and developed in 1957 by scientists at the German company Südzuker AG, the largest sugar producer in Europe. The trademarked names for isomalt, Palatinose and Palatinit are derived from the Palatinate (Pfaltz) region of Germany, where isomalt was developed.

Isomalt has several advantages. It has properties similar to sucrose but half the calories, making it useful for lower-calorie foods. It has no aftertaste and a longer shelf-life than sucrose. Consuming isomalt does not substantially increase glucose levels in the bloodstream, so it is suitable for diabetics. Isomalt does not promote tooth decay, and products containing isomalt can be labeled “sugar free.” See dental caries. Although the excessive consumption of isomalt can cause diarrhea and gastric problems, it is approved for use as a food additive in most countries.