You might not know it, but salad dressing and glue used for wallpaper have one thing in common. This is the use of xanthan gum, which is a food additive. Moreover, you might have already consumed food that contains this additive. Here is everything there is to learn and understand about this food stabilizer, its uses, its benefits, and its side effects.
What is Xanthan Gum?
As mentioned, xanthan gum is a food additive used to stabilize or thicken food. It is made from the fermentation of sugar by the bacteria known as Xanthomonas campestris. Once it is fermented, the result is a goo-like compound. For it to turn solid, alcohol is added before it is dried.
Afterward, the end result is a powder that is easily added to liquid products. It helps stabilize, suspend, and thicken numerous products. Xanthan gum was discovered in 1963, and the FDA deemed it safe for consumption and use.
Xanthan gum is used not only in food but in various industrial and personal care products as well. With regards to its effect on the human body, it helps treat constipation and lower blood glucose and cholesterol in individuals with diabetes. Furthermore, it acts as a substitute for saliva in individuals suffering from a dry mouth.
A. Food Products
This food additive improves consistency, texture, appearance, shelf life, and flavor of various food. As mentioned, it acts as a food stabilizer by helping food withstand changing pH levels and temperatures. In gluten-free cooking, xanthan gum is often used as it helps provide fluffiness and elasticity required in traditional baked products. Food products that contain this additive include the following.
|Baked goods||Low-Fat Products|
|Fruit juice||Salad Dressing|
B. Industrial Products
Due to its ability to tolerate changing pH levels and temperatures, it is used in numerous industrial products. Moreover, it helps thicken liquids and maintain proper flow. Some of the standard industrial goods that contain xanthan gum include the following.
- Adhesives (Glue for Wallpaper)
- Fluid for Oil Drilling
- Herbicides, Insecticides, and Fungicides
- Toilet Bowl, Oven, Grout, and Tile Cleaners
C. Personal Care Goods
The additive is also widely used in beauty and personal care products due to its ability to keep fluids thick but maintain good flow. Xanthan gum also keeps solid particles suspended in a solution. Some products containing this additive include the following.
1. Lowers Blood Sugar
Numerous studies claim that the additive reduces blood glucose levels, only when consumed in huge doses. It works by turning fluid in the small intestine and stomach into a gel-like constituent that slows down digestion. Moreover, it affects the entry and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream; thus, considerably lowering blood sugar levels.
2. Lowers Cholesterol
According to another study, xanthan gum decreased cholesterol levels by 10 percent. In the survey conducted, the men were required to consume approximately ten times more of the recommended amount of the additive within 23 days.
3. Lowers Weight
Users claim that consuming food with xanthan gum boosts one’s feeling of fullness. It works by slowing digestion and delaying stomach emptying. This, in turn, helps lower one’s weight.
4. Improves Bowel Movement
The additive heightens the movement of water to the intestines which result in a bulkier and softer stool that is easy to pass. Moreover, studies have shown that the food additive offers a significant increase in the amount and frequency of stool.
5. Thickens Liquid
Elderly individuals or those with neurological problems often have trouble swallowing. However, xanthan gum may help thicken the liquid to make it easy to drink.
6. Substitute for Saliva
Not everyone suffers from a dry mouth, but for those who do, studies claim that xanthan gum is useful as a saliva substitute.
7. Slows Growth of Cancer
Studies conducted on mice showed that the food additive decelerated the growth of cancer-causing tumors. However, studies conducted on humans have yet to be done. Further research is required to justify the claims.
One of the most notable side effects that manifest in individuals consuming xanthan gum is an upset stomach. In studies conducted on animals, large doses of the additive cause soft stools and an increased frequency in bowel movement. On the other hand, massive doses of the food additive in humans’ lead to the following adverse reactions.
- Altered Gut Bacteria
- Increased Gas
- Increased Stool Output
- Increased Bowel Movement Frequency
- Softer Stools
Take note that these side effects manifest if an individual consumes 15 grams or more of the additive. As for exposure to xanthan gum powder, the following side effects may be noted.
- Flu-Like Symptoms
- Lung Problems
- Throat and Nose Irritation
Though 15 grams of the additive is unlikely to be consumed in a typical diet, there are certain precautions to take note of.
A. Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
There are insufficient studies regarding the use and safety of the additive in breastfeeding and pregnant women. It is best to steer clear of items containing this additive to prevent complications or adverse reactions.
B. Undiagnosed Stomach Pain
For individuals suffering from undiagnosed stomach pain or a blockage of the intestine, hard stools become difficult to pass. As a bulk-forming laxative, xanthan gum should be well avoided. It is also ill-advised in individuals suffering from appendicitis, vomiting, and nausea.
Given its benefit of lowering blood glucose levels, xanthan gum is not advised for consumption at least two weeks before surgery. The additive may interfere with the control of blood glucose during as well as after a surgical procedure.
According to the World Health Organization, the recommended consumption of xanthan gum as an additive to food is approximately 10 milligrams per kilogram daily. On the other hand, around 15 grams daily is the adequate intake if used as a laxative. Take note that sufficient water should be consumed when taking laxatives. In individuals with diabetes, the recommended dose is 12 grams daily and is used as an ingredient for baked goods such as muffins.