The Truth Behind The Use of Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum, a food additive that is widely used in the preparation of several products that are both edible and non-edible, is polysaccharide chemically and used highly as a thickening and stabilising agent to prevent the separation of ingredients in foods and other products. From your salad dressings to expensive cosmetics, the list goes endless to learn which item comes with this additive. While there can be a few benefits of consuming the additive, there are a number of disadvantages when taken in large quantities and for a long duration. In this section, we will give you several factors on what actually is Xanthan gum and how it has affected the daily lives of the human race since its discovery.

The Discovery of Xanthan Gum

Allene Rosalind Jeanes along with her research team in the 1960s at the United States Department of Agriculture discovered Xanthan Gum (Whistler, Roy, L, and BeMiller, James N., 1973). Its commercial production was started by them under the trade name ‘Kelzan’ but only received an approval for being a safe food additive in the USA, Europe, Canada and other countries by 1968, with the E number ‘E415’.

It is generally prepared by the fermentation process of different simple sugars like glucose, sucrose and lactose. It derived its name from the bacteria strain used in the process, ’Xanthomonas campestris’, the bacteria that also develops a black mess and rot to vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli (Barrére, G.C., C.E. Barber, and M.J. Daniels, 1986). It is categorised under the imperial number E415 and is known with the chemical formula ‘C35H49O29’.

Understanding the Derivation of Xanthan Gum

Commercially, it is prepared from several cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower by aerobic submerged fermentation using Xanthomonas campestris (Babbar and Jain, 2006). Alternatively, Xanthan Gum can be produced from unmodified starches by X. campestris (Rosalam and England, 2006) and molasses (Kalogiannis et al., 2003). A negatively charged carboxyl groups on the side chains are created that result towards the formation of viscous fluids after getting mixed with water. Hence, it can be used as a thickener in many food products including sauces and ice creams as it prevents the formation of ice crystals.

The primary structure of Xanthan Gum was established in 1975, which states that it is a pentasaccharide unit composed of glucose, mannose and glucuronic acid at a 2:2:1 ratio (Jansson, Kenne, & Lindberg, 1975). A strain of X. campestris is developed using lactose sugar from whey to be used in different food supplements. This strain can produce 30 g/L of Xanthan gum for every 40 g/L whey powder. It is resistant to heat and comes with both thickening and stabilising properties (Tortora et. al., 2010)

Ideal Dosage of Xanthan Gum

As a food additive, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set the maximum acceptable intake for Xanthan gum at 10 mg/kg per day and as a laxative at 15 grams per day. (Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182). In a study, Xanthan Gum when consumed at 15 g/day for 10 days by 18 volunteers was found to cause a significant increase in stool output, frequency of defecation and flatulence whilst having variable effects on transit time (Daly J, Tomlin J and Read NW, 1993). But when a study was done to find the relationship between handling Xanthan gum and its reported symptoms, it was found that nose and throat irritation was the most prevalent symptom and was considered as work-related illness (Sargent EV et. al.,1990).

 Different products have different levels of Xanthan Gum present that generally exceed the limit in total. For example, in baked products like cakes or bread, for every 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp of Xanthan gum is required to give 4 g at a time. Apart from food, cosmetics contain 0.1 to 1% of the additive depending upon the requirement of texture and smoothness. Other daily usable things like toothpaste, shampoo, salad dressing and many more have this additive in the hidden form. It ranges from half a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon (2 gm to 4 gm) in a product depending on the required gummy texture. Half a teaspoon of this gum is generally used for 1 cup of liquid of salad dressing to provide the required thickness. Other food products like ice creams also contain this gum. The general formula used for making ice-cream is one-fourth a teaspoon multiplied by per litre of liquid. Ice-creams are made fluffy by adding a volume of air mixed with the liquid blend. Hence, the amount of Xanthan Gum is calculated over the amount of liquid used. The ingredients listing in every packed product mention food additives by its E number. Therefore, always check the label for the presence of E 415 on it. Although, the exact concentration of this additive is not mentioned, but when you take it in almost every other item, it will possibly create a chaos in your system. 

What Makes Xanthan Gum Popular?

Xanthan Gum is one ingredient that can be found in those delicious bottles of salad dressings and the expensive sets of cosmetics lined up on the shelves of stores. It is a food additive that is widely used in the preparation of several items that are edible and non-edible as a:

  1. Thickening Agent: It is used as a thickening agent in powdered food products to achieve the required viscosity. For example, protein supplements.
  1. Stabilising Agent: The same is added to stabilise food products to prevent separation of ingredients, like in sauces.
  1. Emulsification Agent: The gum has the ability to form a stable foam structure. This keeps the oil and water emulsion stable in dairy products.
  1. Prevents Ice Crystallisation: In frozen foods, Xanthan Gum prevents the formation of ice crystals giving many foods including ice-creams a smooth texture.
  1. Food Filler: Xanthan Gum is used in ingredients to provide bulk to the item. It works as an effective filler with no added nutrient benefits. For example, nutrition supplements.
  1. Smooth Texture: Apart from your food, it is added to moisturisers, lotions and other skin products to give the cosmetic products a smooth texture too.
  1. Gluten-Replacer: It is used as a gluten replacer in many baked products because of its ability to provide a chewy and stretchability texture. 
  1. Structural Support: You favourite fruity jams and jellies also contain Xanthan Gum for it helps maintain their delicate structure without providing any specific taste.

The Benefits of Xanthan Gum

When consumed or used once in a while, Xanthan Gum can create no issue in a body. There can be some benefits on a short term basis, but this additive can cause severe side effects on long term basis too. Several studies have, in fact, proven that this additive can have a few benefits such as:

  1. Laxative Effect: Xanthan Gum is known to have a laxative effect in the colon which improves its movement and keeps it healthy. A study done on 18 volunteers where 15 g of the additive was given per day for 10 days, it was found to cause them a significant increase in stool output, frequency of defecation and flatulence whilst having variable effects on transit time (Daly J, Tomlin J and Read NW, 1993).
  1. Added Fibre: As the gum is polysaccharide in nature, it works as a fibre and can be seen to be beneficial for colon health as Xanthan Gum is unlikely to be absorbed intact and is expected to be partially fermented by intestinal microbiota (Mortensen A et. al., 2017).
  1. Balances Sugar Level: It develops a gel-like structure in the intestine which prevents a sudden spike of serum blood glucose and improves the glucose tolerance in a body. In different studies, it was found that Xanthan Gum, when consumed with rice, suppressed blood sugar levels 15 and 30 min after rice consumption. The glycemic index (GI) was significantly lower in all the Xanthan Gum added groups than in the standard rice group (Fuwa Masako, Nakanishi Yukiko and Moritaka Hatsue, 2016).
  1. Lowers “Bad” Cholesterol: Xanthan Gum encloses the “bad” cholesterol molecule in its gel-like structure and helps flush them out to manage the lipid profile of the body. In a study of 7 days where 5 male volunteers consumed a weight of the gum equal to 15 times the current acceptable daily intake with the lightest and heaviest of the volunteers consuming 10.4 g and 12.9 g respectively, they had a 10% reduction in serum cholesterol and a significant increase in faecal bile acid concentrations (Eastwood MA, Brydon WG, Anderson DM., 1987).

Side Effects of Xanthan Gum

Consuming this additive above recommended level can lead to severe side effects included digestion problem, imbalance serum sugar levels and much more. Since, this additive is an ingredient of many daily routine items it becomes easy to exceed the recommended value. Some side effects that can be commonly seen among people include:

  1. Stimulated Digestive System: Xanthan Gum is known to have a laxative effect and on excessive consumption, it can lead to significant increases in stool output, frequency of defecation and flatulence. It has been seen in a study done on rats that the additive can increase faecal short chain fatty acid production and faecal water that can disturb the digestive system (Edwards CA and Eastwood MA, 1995).
  1. Irritated Respiratory System: Higher consumption or longer duration exposure of the additive can irritate the respiratory system, which can lead to flu-like symptoms including nose and throat irritation. People working in the handling of Xanthan Gum are at a higher risk of work-related illness (Sargent EV et. al.,1990).
  1. Increased Risk of Hypoglycaemia: Excessive use of the gum increases the risk of hypoglycaemia in patients already taking diabetic medicines as it hinders the slowing down of the release of glucose in the blood. Especially with people who have undergone a surgery should take care of their consumption of the same (Osilesi O et. al., 1985).
  1. Impaired Bowel Movement: Excessive consumption can also lead to a blockage of hard stool in the intestine, resulting to severe issues in excretion along with stomachaches, cramps and bloating. Although these effects occur after excessive consumption of Xanthan Gum with less fluid intake as it affects the bowel movement and can lead to severe symptoms (Eastwood MA et. al., 1987).
  1. Allergic Reaction: Since Xanthan Gum is derived from sugar that can be taken from different options like wheat, corn, soy or dairy, it can lead to an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to these items. Depending on the severity of allergy, different symptoms can be observed among individuals (Rosalam S. and England R., 2006).
  1. Development of Necrotising Enterocolitis in Premature Infants: Many breast milk formula and baby foods contain Xanthin gum as a thickener agent which is seen to be a major reason for the development of necrotising enterocolitis. This can vary from variable damage to the intestinal tract, ranging from mucosal injury to full-thickness necrosis (Woods CW et. al., 2012).

Substitutes of Xanthan Gum

Various substitutes can be used instead of Xanthan Gum for better quality of food and to avoid any possible side effects. A few of these substitutes include:

  1. Psyllium Fibre: Psyllium Fibre is a soluble fibre known to have a lowering effect on the “bad” cholesterol of body along with balancing sugar levels and improving colon health. This fibre forms gel-like sticky structure when mixed with water and hence, can be used as a thickener property.
  1. Seeds: Chia seeds and flaxseeds have the tendency to absorb water and form gel structures making them an ideal replacer of Xanthan Gum. However, these seeds have their characteristic taste and can add to the flavour.
  1. Agar Agar: This is a vegetarian source for thickening solutions that have a bulking effect and is derived from seaweed. It is flavourless and can be added to cooked products.
  1. Gelatin: Derived after the breaking down of collagen, gelatin is a non-vegetarian source and can be used in different food products to make it thicker and filling.

 What Makes Different Companies Include Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum acts as a thickener and filler in food products which lead to more yielding in the same price of a product. Many supplement companies add this to their products because of the texture it provides when mixed with water. This also provides a feeling of fullness that adds satiety to their product and makes them cost-effective, but with no added nutrient benefits. Additionally, the additive adds bulk in such supplements because of its filler property, adding extra mass and keeping the cost of the product cheap. 

 No Xanthan Gum in Power Protein, LIV Raw And MiCasein:

All the texture and smoothness of the products are because of its high-quality ingredients which deliver right and balanced nutrition without any additives. Many believe that Xanthan Gum offers several benefits and consuming it within a range will not develop health issues. However, since it is found in every item, we tend to exceed the recommended quantity limit on a daily basis. Consuming such an additive over a prolonged period of time can have side effects and therefore, we avoid adding any such ingredient that can harm our consumers in any manner. 

  1. Best Quality is Prime Focus: The most important focus of Steadfast Nutrition is to deliver high-quality products that provide maximum benefits to the consumers. We believe in clean nutrition with minimum use of food additives so as to provide satiety because of the presence of only the right ingredients and no fillers or thickeners.
  1. No Side Effects: We have kept the use of additives to the minimum so that no side effects are developed among our customers down the line, even when consumed for a lifetime.
  1. Balanced and Clean Nutrition: Our ideology is to deliver only the best with a balanced composition for overall health and wellbeing. We have not added Xanthan Gum in our products to maintain their high-quality standard and avoid any possible side effects. We at Steadfast Nutrition believe in not adding such components and we make no compromises with our nutritional supplements and thus offer the best.
  1. Better Satiety and Better Nutrition: All the products are focused on providing maximum benefits of balanced and right nutrition. Anybody who is a fitness enthusiast or athlete can have our products depending on their activity duration and intensity to get the right nutrient balance.

 

Conclusion:

 Xanthan gum is derived from natural sources by fermentation of the different sugars, namely glucose, lactose and sucrose. It is a polysaccharide molecule which is used as an additive because of its thickening and emulsifying properties. It can be found in many daily usable items ranging from toothpaste and salad dressings to dietary supplements and cosmetics. Depending upon the requirement of thickness, viscosity and smoothness of a product, Xanthan Gum is used by different companies. 

 Xanthan Gum can be found in baked products, cosmetics, ice creams, salad dressings, supplements, shampoos, toothpastes and much more.Therefore, this additive is actually found in nearly all products, whether edible or non-edible. Xanthan Gum is not mentioned on labels of products by its name, but can be found by its empirical name — E 415. So, always check the label of every packed item, whether consumable or non-consumable to know the presence or absence of this additive. 

 As a food additive, the World Health Organization (WHO) has set the maximum acceptable intake for Xanthan Gum at 10 mg/kg per day, meaning that if your body weight is 60 kg, you can have 600 mg or 0.6 gm per day. However, this amount exceeds because of the presence of this additive in almost every food item. Different researches have shown an increase in defecation, flatulence and stool output that prove advantageous to many people as a laxative effect. However, consuming an additive in excess amount for prolonged period can cause damage to the organs as well. These laxative effects can lead to a sensitive digestive system and can cause constipation. Therefore, care should be taken while consuming any such additive.

 Not only packed food items, but many supplements in the form of protein come with Xanthan gum as a filler and thickener to improve their yield and bulk. This provides smoothness to the shake when protein is mixed with water. It also contributes towards satiety, which however,  is wrong as the real nutrition suffers and quality of the ingredients degrade. Every athlete and fitness enthusiast consuming a number of nutrition supplements with some even consuming more than one serving of protein a day. This makes them prone towards the consumption of this additive on a much higher side that contributes towards degradation in their health. Therefore, consuming good quality products should be made a significant approach for long term health and well being. 

  

References: 

  1. Whistler, Roy, L, and BeMiller, James N., eds Industrial Gums: Polysaccharides and their Derivatives Academic Press (1973) 
  2. Barrére, G.C., C.E. Barber, and M.J. Daniels (1986) Intl. J. Biological Macromolecules, 8(6):372-374
  3. Chawla, R. and Patil, G.R. (2010), Soluble Dietary Fiber. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 9: 178–196. doi:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00099.x
  4. Babbar SB, Jain R. 2006. Xanthan gum: an economical partial substitute for agar in microbial culture media. Curr Microbiol 52(4):287–92. 
  5. Rosalam S, England R. 2006. Review of xanthan gum production from unmodified starches by Xanthomonas campestris sp. Enzyme Microbial Technol 39(2):197–207.
  6. Kalogiannis S, Iakovidou G, Liakopoulou KM, Kyriakidis DA, Skaracis GN. 2003. Optimization of xanthan gum production by Xanthomonas campestris grown in molasses. Process Biochem 39(2):249–56
  7. P.E. Jansson, L. Kenne, B. Lindberg, 1975 Structure of the extracellular polysaccharide from Xanthomonas campestris
  8. Tortora, G.J., Funke, B.R., & Case, C.L. (2010). Microbiology: An Introduction, 10th edition. San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings. Pg. 801.
  9. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 21. Part 182 -- Substances Generally Recognized As Safe.  
  10. 10.Daly, J., Tomlin, J., & Read, N. (1993). The effect of feeding xanthan gum on colonic function in man: Correlation with in vitro determinants of bacterial breakdown. British Journal of Nutrition, 69(3), 897-902. doi:10.1079/BJN19930089
  11. 11.Sargent EV, Adolph J, Clemmons MK, et al. Evaluation of flu-like symptoms in workers handling xanthan gum powder. Occup Med 1990;32:625-30.
  12. 12.Fuwa, Masako & Nakanishi, Yukiko & Moritaka, Hatsue. (2016). Effect of Xanthan Gum on Blood Sugar Level after Cooked Rice Consumption. Food Science and Technology Research. 22. 117-126. 10.3136/fstr.22.117.
  13. 13.Sargent EV, Adolph J, Clemmons MK, et al. Evaluation of flu-like symptoms in workers handling xanthan gum powder. Occup Med 1990;32:625-30.
  14. 14.EFSA ANS Panel (EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food), Mortensen A, Aguilar F, Crebelli R, Di Domenico A, Frutos MJ, et al, 2017. Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of xanthan gum (E 415) as a food additive. EFSA Journal 2017
  15. 15.Edwards, C., & Eastwood, M. (1995). Caecal and faecal short-chain fatty acids and stool output in rats fed on diets containing non-starch polysaccharides. British Journal of Nutrition, 73(5), 773-781. doi:10.1079/BJN19950080
  16. 16.Osilesi O, Trout DL, Glover EE, et al. Use of xanthan gum in dietary management of diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;42: 597-603.
  17. 17.S. Rosalam, R. England, Review of xanthan gum production from unmodified starches by Xanthomonas comprestris sp., Enzyme and Microbial Technology, Volume 39, Issue 2, 2006, Pages 197-207, ISSN 0141-0229
  18. 18.Woods CW, Oliver T, Lewis K and Yang Q, 2012. Development of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants receiving thickened feeds using SimplyThick. Journal of Perinatology, 32, 150–152.

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