All you need to know about xanthan gum
Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide, a type of sugar that is made from a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris, through a process of fermentation. Xanthomonas campestris infects a wide range of cruciferous plants, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, causing diseases such as black rot and bacterial wilt.
Manufacturers make xanthan gum by pulling bacteria from many different plants. The finished product does not contain any viable bacteria, so there is no risk of xanthan gum causing infections.
Fast facts on xanthan gum:
- Xanthan gum thickens food and other products, and also prevents ingredients from separating.
- Non-food products, such as oil and cosmetics, also contain xanthan gum.
- Xanthan gum may help lower or stabilize blood sugar.
- As with any food or food additive, some people may not tolerate it.
What is xanthan gum used for?
Xanthan gum serves two primary purposes:
- As a thickening agent: It is added to toothpaste and some other products to keep them uniformly thick. It is also used in industry, for example, helping to thicken drilling oil.
- As an emulsifier: Its ability to bind moisture means it can prevent products from separating. For this reason, it is an ingredient in some oil-based salad dressings and cosmetics.
Potential health benefits
Some research suggests that xanthan gum can improve health in the following ways:
Lowering or stabilizing blood sugar
Studies suggest that the glycemic index of rice may be lowered if coated with xanthan gum.
A 2016 study found that xanthan gum could lower the glycemic index of rice. After a group of people ate rice that was coated with xanthan gum, their blood sugar levels were lower.
The benefits were most significant when participants consumed rice covered with xanthan, instead of using xanthan gum before or after meals.
So foods containing xanthan gum might offer the most potent blood sugar-lowering benefits.
Xanthan gum may also stabilize blood sugar. A 2013 study found that xanthan gum mixed with beta-glucan (a type of sugar found in plants) could help prevent blood sugar spikes.
Some research suggests that, when taken in very high doses, xanthan gum may lower cholesterollevels. A 1987 study, for example, found that men who consumed xanthan gum for about 3 weeks experienced a 10 percent reduction in cholesterol.
There is little evidence that xanthan gum is beneficial on its own in the treatment of high cholesterol. A newer study has yet to be done to confirm these results.
Saliva substitute and treating dry mouth
Xanthan gum may be a useful and safe saliva substitute for people who experience chronic dry mouth. Some varieties of toothpaste for dry mouths contain xanthan gum to help lock in moisture.
Because xanthan gum helps to bind water, it may also help act as a laxative. The food thickener swells in the digestive tract, helping the intestines to remain moist and supporting gastrointestinal function.