Is Xanthan Gum Safe?

Xanthan gum is a food additive, added to our diets in 1968 when the FDA approved it as safe for human consumption. It is produced from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris, which is fed simple sugars in large batches and naturally secretes xanthan gum.

This ingredient provides structure and elasticity to gluten free baked goods to replace their lack of gluten. In addition, it is used as a thickener in sauces and as a stabilizer to keep liquids and oil combined such as in salad dressings. Gums even provide a chewy texture to ice cream.

What Ingredients Does Xanthan Gum Contain?

Xanthan gum may be derived from wheat, soy or corn sugars, but in the United States, it is usually corn. Because xanthan gum is so refined, it is virtually free of wheat, soy and corn, though those allergic to these ingredients should consult their physician prior to consumption. Xanthan gum itself is a polysaccharide, a long chain of sugars, and also a fiber.

What are Xanthan Gum Nutritional Facts?

Each teaspoon of xanthan gum contains 2 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber, totaling zero net carbs. It also contains 59 mg of calcium, which is 2% of the daily recommended amount in a 2000 calorie diet. Originally, and still on nutritional labels today, xanthan gum is not counted for any caloric intake. However, a new study suggests that xanthan gum could slightly increase caloric intake and also modify our gut microbes.

Nutritional Facts Based on Anthony’s Premium Xanthan Gum

What are the Side Effects of Xanthan Gum?

Some people experience digestive issues when consuming xanthan gum such as bloating and gas. Others are fine and some others experience even worse symptoms. However, I have heard just as many people express experiencing digestive issues when consuming psyllium husk, a xanthan gum substitution, but that they have no problem with gums. 

In human and animal studies xanthan gum has been shown to be generally non-toxic and acts as a mild laxative. The United States Food and Drug Administration still states that xanthan gum is safe to consume but I always promote listening to your body. Everyone’s body and intolerances can be different.

Is Xanthan Gum Digestible?

In the past, xanthan gum was considered calorie free because it is a soluble fiber that human digestion couldn’t break down into sugars. When combined with liquid, xanthan gum turns into a gel form that contributes to a feeling of fullness and previously was thought to pass through the digestive tract without modification. However, a recent study shows that microbes in the human gut can digest xanthan gum, providing calories to the human body, specifically in industrialized countries like the United States and many other countries where processed foods are often consumed.

Does Xanthan Gum Contribute to Good Gut Health?

Before we look at whether xanthan gum contributes to good bacteria, first, let’s look at the human gut’s microorganisms.

The human gut contains good and bad microorganisms. We depend on a host of good microbes to stay healthy. Good microorganisms may protect us against germs, break down food to release energy, and produce vitamins. They coexist in the human body’s gut.

This new study shows that the gut appears to process xanthan gum using a single bacterium from the Ruminococcaceae family. This bacterium breaks down the carbohydrates in xanthan gum and releases smaller carbohydrates. A different gut bacterium, Bacteroides intestinalis, feeds on these smaller carbohydrates. Bacterial consumption of xanthan gum likely leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (which are metabolized in the large intestine) that play roles in intestinal health and can result in caloric intake.

Prebiotics were first defined as a nondigestible soluble fiber that benefited gut health by stimulating a limited number of bacteria in the intestines. Later, the definition was refined as â€śa selectively fermented ingredient that results in specific changes in the composition and/or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, thus conferring benefit(s) upon host [human] health”.

Other soluble fibers alter gut bacteria. They are known as prebiotics and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. However, more research is needed to understand xanthan gum’s potential as a prebiotic.

Are There Any Xanthan Gum Substitutes?

There are a few xanthan gum substitutes. Check them out in the article, “Xanthan Gum Substitutes” and visit the Gum-Free Gluten Free Recipes category.

Study:

This study shows that xanthan gum is now digested in our guts, in industrialized countries, and that our guts have adapted to this now widely used food additive. While no danger is proven when xanthan gum is consumed in small amounts, there is more to learn about those consuming it in larger amounts such as those on a gluten free diet.

“Although small doses of XG [xanthan gum] have not
been connected to immediate health impacts, its fate in the digestive tract is unknown11. The low-level but constant consumption of XG by much of the industrialized world and higher intake by specific subpopulations highlight the need to understand its effects on the human gut microbiota.”

DOWNLOAD: Learn more and download the study on this website at Xanthan Gum Digestion by Microbiome.


You may also download the study where it was first published at Mechanistic insights into the consumption of the food additive xanthan gum by the human gut microbiotota.

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