What is Xanthan Gum?
Xanthan gum (E415) is a food additive derived from the fermentation of carbohydrates, primarily glucose, sucrose, or starch . It is classified as a soluble dietary fibre and is produced by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris . The natural fermentation process results in a product that's identical in chemical structure to what you'd find in nature. This remarkable gum is extensively used in the food industry as a natural thickening and stabilising agent, renowned for improving texture and shelf life in a wide array of products . Further properties of xanthan gum include its ability to increase the viscosity of liquids, its heat resistance, and its shear-thinning ability (xanthan gum becomes thinner when mixed or blended, yet maintains thickness when at rest) [1,2].
Applications of Xanthan Gum in Food
Gluten-Free Baking: Xanthan gum is a staple in gluten-free baking, where it mimics the binding properties of gluten, resulting in improved texture and structure [1,2].
Sauces and Condiments: Xanthan gum is often used to thicken and stabilise salad dressings, ensuring a creamy and well-blended consistency. It also contributes to the smooth and homogenous texture of sauces and gravies, preventing undesirable separation .
Dairy and Dairy Alternatives: Xanthan gum enhances the creaminess and mouthfeel of dairy and non-dairy milk alternatives, including almond milk and non-dairy ice creams [1,2].
Purported Health Implications of Xanthan Gum
Reducing Risk of Choking: Perhaps a less known use of xanthan gum is its role in thickening liquids to control the swallowing process for elderly and patients who have problems with swallowing food and liquids [2,3]. For example, it can be effectively used as part of the treatment for Oropharyngeal Dysphagia .
Digestive Health: Xanthan gum is a soluble fibre that can help support digestive health by relieving constipation and promoting regular bowel movements . The fibre content in xanthan-based thickeners is shown to be significantly higher than that in starch-based thickeners, and can also be seen as a source of soluble fibre for patients .
Weight Management: Xanthan-based thickeners are suggested to contain less energy and carbohydrates than starch-based thickeners, potentially making it more suitable for patients who are diabetic, overweight, obese, or are at risk for obese-related comorbidities .
Allergies and Sensitivities: Soy-based products, such as soy peptone or soybean oil, are sometimes used as part of the fermentation medium in making Xanthan Gum . This can introduce a connection between xanthan gum and soy. People with soy allergies may want to be cautious when consuming products containing xanthan gum, especially if the specific source of the xanthan gum is not disclosed. While the allergenic proteins in soy are usually removed during processing, trace amounts may still remain, and individuals with severe soy allergies should exercise caution. It is also possible that cornstarch may be used in the production process, which may be a concern for individuals with corn allergies .
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
Xanthan gum stands as an essential ingredient in the food industry, offering unparalleled thickening and stabilising properties. When incorporated into food formulations, it plays a crucial role in achieving the desired textures and maintaining product consistency. As a trusted food additive, xanthan gum continues to contribute to the overall quality of a wide array of food items. However, it is important to be aware of the recommendations for safe consumption of this food additive:
FDA Guidelines: Xanthan gum is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when used within established limits . It is well-tolerated by most individuals.
EFSA Guidelines: The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not established specific Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) guidelines for xanthan gum due to the conclusion of there being no need. It is considered safe when used within regulatory limits .
Follow the Label: When using products containing xanthan gum, follow the recommended serving sizes and usage instructions on the label.
Digestive Sensitivity: Xanthan contains soluble dietary fibre. Some individuals may be sensitive to xanthan gum and experience gastrointestinal discomfort. If you notice any adverse effects, consult a healthcare professional.
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United States Food and Drug Administration. "Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Xanthan Gum." Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.875
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We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.