- Isomaltodextrin is a water-soluble dietary fiber with various bioactive functions, including regulating the intestinal microbiome and bowel movement, immunity, and blood glucose. Since isomaltodextrin is colorless and odorless in an aqueous solution, it can be easily formulated in foods, including those with a white appearance such as cooked rice and udon noodles. Because it is odorless it can be used in many foods without interfering with the natural flavor of the foods.
Although research on isomaltodextrin started more than ten years ago it took years to realize its commercial value. The following provides the history and the many challenges that accompanied its journey from development to commercialization.
(photographed on a black paper)
Dietary fiber produced by enzymes
For this it was obviously necessary to identify an enzyme or enzymes that could cut the molecular bonds of starch and rearrange them to produce a non-digestible structure. Hayashibara started the research by collecting soil samples in the same way as for trehalose development. Microorganisms in thousands of soil samples were isolated and carefully examined.
These microorganisms in fluid culture were observed for by-products from their interaction with starch. Any by-products were further observed for interaction with gut digestive enzymes. If a by-product was not decomposed into glucose molecules by the digestive enzymes, the microorganism was assumed to produce an enzyme that transformed starch into indigestive polysaccharides.
Success in mass production
through a long detour
However, for unknown reasons, the research team was not able to reproduce isomaltodextrin using the same enzyme after many experiments. In addition, this microorganism formed a very viscous solution during cultivation, which was unsuitable for industrial use. For approximately two years, the development team search for a solution for these problems. In 2006, Hayashibara decided to break the development impasse and replaced the original team with new scientists.
The research was taken over by a different team, to which a researcher, Dr. Hikaru Watanabe belonged. Dr. Watanabe, who had watched the struggles of the previous team, came up with a hypothesis as to why there had been the problems. He speculated that two enzymes maybe needed to produce isomaltodextrin. In fact, trehalose and other sugars also have been shown to require the participation of two enzymes. The new team conducted their research based on his hypothesis.
Dr. Hikaru Watanabe, the researcher who discovered
the second enzyme
Structural formula of isomaltodextrinBacteria were proliferated under various conditions, such as
nutrition and temperature.
An expert team within Hayashibara was formed to optimize the desired properties of the bacteria. Bacteria were proliferated in 100 or more flasks with various conditions including nutrition, temperature, and other parameters. Among the test samples, the bacteria with a less viscous nature were screened for the specific enzyme production. After one year, bacteria that did not create high viscosity was optimized for mass-production.
The improved bacteria contributed to the successful production of isomaltodextrin in a large-scale production process of several hundred kilograms in 2007. The team was now very confident about the launch of isomaltodextrin.
Data on physical properties and functionalities were accumulated
point by point.
In need of
more distinctive characteristics
Because it is produced by an enzymatic reaction, isomaltodextrin is colorless and odorless compared to other water-soluble dietary fibers manufactured under high heat and acidic conditions. In addition, it has beneficial physical properties such as stability to heat and free-thaw cycles. Furthermore, the researchers verified that isomaltodextrin has a number of bioactive functions, such as promoting healthy intestinal environment, blood glucose and blood triglyceride.
Unfortunately, in February 2011 Hayashibara applied for the Corporate Reorganization Act, and the research was temporarily suspended.
Hayashibara’s first cross-departmental
In February 2012, the corporate reorganization had finally been resolved. Hayashibara resumed business activities as a subsidiary of NAGASE & CO., LTD. As a symbol of the rebirth and continued vigor of Hayashibara it was decided that a new product should be launched by the company. Isomaltodextrin was selected to be the product to serve this purpose. It was also a time when the demand for dietary fibers was emerging globally.
After overcoming a big crisis like legal corporate reorganization and being purchased by another company, new hope and a renewed desire to succeed was rising within the company. To harness all the power within the new Hayashibara all the various departments, that had been separate entities in the past, were integrated. These departments joined together to form the company’s fist cross-departmental project. "Team Isomaltodextrin" was initiated in April 2013.
Project team members
Hayashibara hired external institutions to evaluate the effects of isomaltodextrin on health and other supporting data were accumulated. In addition, Hayashibara obtained a "GRAS" status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which showed that isomaltodextrin is safe in foods. Hayashibara made every effort to generate the data needed for isomaltodextrin to be approved throughout the world because of its novel properties.
In 2015, a new water-soluble dietary fiber material, isomaltodextrin, was finally released.
Working to develop materials desired by the world
Physiological functions and benefits in formulation appealed to
audiences at exhibitions
Launching a product is not the only goal of this project. Hayashibara’s efforts will continue to increase the acceptance of this material and help deliver delicious and healthy foods to people around the world.