Xanthan Gum: Is It Healthy or Harmful?

Xanthan gum is a widely used food additive since it helps stabilize and suspend certain products. However, did you know that it offers a lot of health benefits as well? Learn more about this additive and if it is safe to consume.

xantham gum

You might not know it, but salad dressing and glue used for wallpaper have one thing in common. It 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 result is a powder that you can add 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.

Uses

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. Xanthan gum is used in gluten-free cooking. 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
Gluten-Free Goods Sauces
Gravy Soups
Ice cream Syrups

B. Industrial Products

It is due to its ability to tolerate changing pH levels and temperatures. 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
  • Paint
  • 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.

  • Cream
  • Lotion
  • Shampoo
  • Toothpaste

Benefits

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 food additive offers a significant increase in the amount and frequency of bowel movement.

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.

Side Effects

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
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Excess Gas
  • Increased Stool Amount
  • Frequent Bowel Movement
  • 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

Precautions

Though 15 grams of the additive are 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.

C. Surgery

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.

Dosage

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 an 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.

Not everyone suffers from a dry mouth, but for those who do, studies claim that xanthan gum is useful as a saliva substitute.

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