Isomaltose vs. Maltose

What's the Difference?

Isomaltose and maltose are both disaccharides, meaning they are composed of two sugar molecules. However, they differ in their chemical structure and properties. Isomaltose is made up of two glucose molecules linked together by an α-1,6-glycosidic bond, while maltose consists of two glucose molecules connected by an α-1,4-glycosidic bond. This difference in bonding results in distinct properties. Isomaltose is less sweet than maltose and has a lower glycemic index, making it a suitable alternative for individuals with diabetes. Maltose, on the other hand, is sweeter and more commonly found in foods such as grains and malted beverages.


Sugar TypeDisaccharideDisaccharide
Chemical FormulaC12H22O11C12H22O11
StructureAlpha-1,6-glycosidic bondAlpha-1,4-glycosidic bond
SourceNaturally occurring in honey and sugarcaneFound in germinating grains and malted barley
DigestibilityPartially digestibleFully digestible
UsageUsed as a sweetener and in food productionUsed in brewing and fermentation processes

Further Detail


Isomaltose and maltose are two types of disaccharides that are commonly found in various food sources. These sugars play important roles in our diet and have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics of isomaltose and maltose, exploring their chemical structures, sources, sweetness, health effects, and applications.

Chemical Structures

Isomaltose, also known as 6-O-α-D-glucopyranosyl-D-glucopyranose, is a disaccharide composed of two glucose molecules linked by an α-1,6-glycosidic bond. This unique bond arrangement gives isomaltose its specific properties. On the other hand, maltose, also referred to as 4-O-α-D-glucopyranosyl-D-glucose, consists of two glucose units connected by an α-1,4-glycosidic bond. The difference in the glycosidic bond positions between isomaltose and maltose leads to variations in their physical and chemical characteristics.


Isomaltose is naturally present in certain foods such as honey, molasses, and some starchy vegetables like potatoes. It is also a byproduct of the enzymatic hydrolysis of starch. Maltose, on the other hand, is primarily found in germinating grains, particularly barley, where it is produced during the breakdown of starch. It is also a common component of malted grains used in brewing and distilling processes.


When it comes to sweetness, isomaltose is approximately half as sweet as table sugar (sucrose). Its sweetness is often described as mild and less intense compared to other sugars. Maltose, on the other hand, is significantly less sweet than isomaltose and sucrose. It has a subtle sweetness that is often overshadowed by other sugars. This difference in sweetness can influence the taste and flavor profile of foods and beverages where these sugars are used as sweeteners.

Health Effects

Isomaltose and maltose have similar caloric values, providing approximately 4 calories per gram. However, their impact on blood sugar levels differs due to their distinct glycosidic bond positions. Isomaltose, with its α-1,6-glycosidic bond, is more resistant to digestion by human enzymes, resulting in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream. This slower absorption can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those aiming to manage their blood sugar levels. Maltose, with its α-1,4-glycosidic bond, is more readily broken down into glucose, leading to a faster increase in blood sugar levels. Consequently, maltose should be consumed in moderation by individuals with diabetes or those at risk of blood sugar spikes.


Due to their unique properties, isomaltose and maltose find applications in various industries. Isomaltose is commonly used as a bulking agent, stabilizer, or sweetener in food products. It provides texture and enhances the flavor of baked goods, confectioneries, and dairy products. Maltose, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in brewing and distilling processes. It serves as a fermentable sugar that yeast can convert into alcohol during fermentation. Maltose is also utilized in the production of maltodextrin, a common food additive used as a thickener, stabilizer, or filler in processed foods.


In conclusion, isomaltose and maltose are two distinct disaccharides with unique attributes. Isomaltose, with its α-1,6-glycosidic bond, is less sweet and has a slower impact on blood sugar levels. It is commonly found in honey, molasses, and starchy vegetables. Maltose, with its α-1,4-glycosidic bond, is less sweet than isomaltose and has a faster effect on blood sugar levels. It is primarily present in germinating grains and plays a crucial role in brewing and distilling processes. Both sugars have diverse applications in the food industry, contributing to the taste, texture, and stability of various products. Understanding the differences between isomaltose and maltose allows us to make informed choices about their consumption and utilization in different contexts.

Comparisons may contain inaccurate information about people, places, or facts. Please report any issues.