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What is xanthan gum? Sources and Structure
Xanthan gum is a highly viscous soluble fiber artificially produced by bacteria Xanthomonas campestris from wheat, corn, soy or other plant starches [1,10]. It is an indigestible carbohydrate made of various polysaccharides, composed of glucose, mannose and glucuronic acid . Xanthan gum is not absorbed in the small intestine, but it may be broken down (fermented) by beneficial intestinal bacteria into gases and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) [2,3]. It can provide 2.9 Calories per gram .
Xanthan Gum as a Food Additive
Xanthan gum, also called corn sugar gum, may be used as a thickener or fat replacer in dairy products, processed fruits, canned foods, confectionery, ready-to-eat cereals, soybean products, salad dressings, sauces, gravies, soups, edible sausage casings . In the European Union, xanthan gum is labeled as E number E415 .
Xanthan gum may be also used in toothpastes, pills and other medicines and in artificial saliva.
Xanthan Gum Supplements
Capsules and tablets are available over-the-counter (OTC).
Possible Health Benefits of Xanthan Gum Supplements
Xanthan gum is POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in:
- Constipation. In various studies, xanthan gum in doses 10-15 g/day increased the frequency and bulk of stools [2,3,6,8,10].
- Cholesterol levels. In various studies, xanthan gum in doses about 10 g/day decreased total cholesterol levels by about 10% [2,6,9,10].
There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE about the effect of xanthan gum supplements on high glucose levels in diabetics [2,6,9,10], weight loss  and as a saliva substitute in dry mouth due to Sjögren’s syndrome [10,12,13].
Xanthan Gum Safety: Side Effects, Dangers
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given xanthan gum the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status, but it approves its use in foods . Xanthan gum is safe when used in doses up to 15 g/day .
Xanthan gum may cause abdominal bloating and excessive gas (flatulence) [3,7]. It may trigger allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to soy, corn, wheat or whichever plant xanthan gum is extracted from .
Pregnancy. Insufficient studies have been done to evaluate xanthan gum safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding .
Who should avoid xanthan gum?
- Anyone with appendicitis, hard stools (fecal impaction), nausea, vomiting, bowel obstruction or undiagnosed abdominal pain should avoid it. Xanthan gum is a bulk-forming laxative, which may interfere with the mentioned conditions .
- Individuals who take hypoglycemic drugs or are scheduled for surgery. Xanthan gum might promote blood glucose levels drop related to surgery or in combination with oral diabetic drugs .
Substitutes for Xanthan Gum in a Gluten-Free Baking
Xanthan gum may be expensive, it may have a gummy texture and aftertaste and it may cause excessive gas or allergic reactions. The following binding agents can be used instead of xanthan gum: acacia (arabic) gum, agar agar, carrageenan, chia seeds, egg whites, flax seeds, gelatin, guar gum and psyllium husk.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is xanthan gum vegan and gluten free?
Xanthan gum is produced by bacteria, so it is not vegan. Wheat-derived xanthan gum is not gluten free but the gum derived from other sources (corn, potatoes) is.
2. Is xanthan gum produced by genetically modified organisms (GMO)?
Xanthan gum may or may not be produced by GMO; this depends on a particular producer.