GUMS (alginic acid, arabic, carrageenan, ghatti, guar, karaya, locust bean, tragacanth, xanthan) and Your Health

If you look at the long list of ingredients in the typical processed food items, you’ll notice all kinds of stuff you don’t know.  Several gum products are utilized for different purposes in commercial food processing. They replace fat in low-fat foods and modify their texture. Gums are also used as stabilizers and thickening agents. Gums are recognized by the body as mixtures of digestible sugars.Various types of gums have different effect on your health.

Arabic Gum, Tragacanth and Locust Bean Gum. These thickening agents are found in chewing gum, chewy and hard candies, and frostings.  Tragacanth commonly appears in ice cream, jellies, sorbets, and salad dressings; locust bean gum is often used in baked goods, beverages, gelatin desserts, and ice cream. Studies have shown these gums to cause mild to severe asthma attacks and rashes.

Alginic Acid. Alginic acid is is a polysaccharide, used to maintain the texture of packaged foods and drinks.  It is commonly found in beverages, cheeses and cheese spreads, frozen custards, fruit sorbet, ice cream, icings, and salad dressings.  Alginic acid is naturally abundant in sea vegetables, like brown algae, including kombu, hijiki, arame, and wakame. Scientific researchers have demonstrated that alginic acid binds with any heavy metals found in the intestines, renders them indigestible, and causes them to be eliminated.  So, any heavy metals, such as barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, zinc, and even radioactive strontium that may be present in the intestines will not be absorbed by the body when alginic acid is present. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Ice cream cures radiation, right?

“Heavy metals taken into the human body are rendered insoluble by alginic acid in the intestines and cannot, therefore, be absorbed into body tissues,” say doctors Seibin and Teruko Arasaki (scientists and seaweed experts)  in their book Vegetables From the Sea.  Their research has also shown that the alginic acid in sea vegetables actually helps bind and draw out any similar toxins that are already stored in our bodies.  Alginic acid in processed food items hasn’t been studied, but it appears to be not harmful, and perhaps, even beneficial to human health.

Carrageenan.  Carrageenan is a stabilizer and a thickening agent used in various food items, ranging from soy milks to ice cream, to pate, to beer.  It has been linked to toxic hazards, including ulcers of the gastro-intestinal tract and cancer.  Consumption of carrageenan may have a role in intestinal inflammation and possibly inflammatory bowel disease.  Carrageenan is also reported to interfere with macrophage activity.  Recent research also indicated that carrageenan could be carcinogenic for humans.

Ghatti, Guar, Karaya. Ghatti gum and karaya gum powders come from the Indian guar plant.  Guar gum is the fiber from the guar plant seed.  Many processed foods utilize guar as a special additive to improve emulsifying, thickening, handling, smoothness, shelf life, and other characteristics.  The gums are also used to improve the texture of pet food.   According to a new study, rats that were fed guar gum had their LDL-cholesterol fall by about 30% . This indicates the positive effect of these gums on LDL cholesterol, which is a frequent precursor to heart disease.  These gums are also used in some nutritional supplements as they provide fiber, which is necessary for some weight loss pills and laxatives.  Currently, there is no research supporting negative health effects of guar, karaya, and ghatti gums.

Xantan. Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide and a product of fermentation of Xanthamonas campestris bacteria.  Xanthan gum is used in dairy products and salad dressings as a thickening agent and stabilizer.  Xanthan gum prevents ice crystals from forming in ice creams, and provides a fat feel in low or no-fat dairy products.  Xanthan gum is also used as a substitute for wheat gluten in gluten-free breads, pastas, and other flour-based food products.  This gum has been proven to be highly edible and a good source of dietary fiber.  It has the ability to form mixed gels with certain other polysaccharides.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that a good intake of dietary fiber protects against obesity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.  Xanthan gum has a glutinous quality that makes it good for use as a bulking agent in the above conditions.  Multiple animal studies have found no relationship between xanthan gum consumption and poor health.