Is Xanthan Gum A Safe Food Additive?

Whenever someone talks about food additives, there is always a question of xanthan gum. If you look up xanthan gum on the internet, you will get nearly 1.2 million results on it. The case of the use of xanthan gum has always been controversial.

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What makes the case of this additive complicated?

You might find a lot of studies and information regarding this food additive on the internet, but as you go through it you will see a lot of conflictions in the researches.

You will probably come across articles that call xanthan gum a healthy food, as well as several others, call it a potential carcinogen.

To know more about the interesting case of xanthan gum, it is important to know what it actually is and what it is used for.

Xanthan gum is a complex exopolysaccharide. This means that it is a polymer made up of sugar residues and secret by a number of microorganisms such as the plant-pathogenic-bacterium in their surroundings.

Though most of the microorganisms that produce xanthan gum are responsible for many of the diseases in plants, the xanthan gum is used in various industrial purposes and specifically as a stabilizing or thickening agent in food manufacturing.

In the modern-day world, there are increased uses of xanthan gum. It is commonly used in the following:

Ice cream and sherbet

Supplements

Pudding

Toothpaste

Cosmetics

Yogurt

Medicines

Pastry fillings and baked goods

Pudding

Industrial uses

Lotions

Salad dressings

Sauces, jams, jellies

It is also used in countless other products that you commonly consume. The way this additive is produced for further use is also very interesting itself.

Firstly, xanthan gum is produced when the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris ferments sucrose, glucose or lactose. Then, the second step is to solidify it through precipitation. In order to do that, the isopropyl alcohol is used.

After the solidification procedure takes place, it is left to dry. When it completely dries, it is grounded into powder. It is then ready to be added to the liquid to form the gum.

Since xanthan gum is a natural emulsifier in comparison with other additives, it is considered far safer and non-hazardous for addition to a bigger range of drilling, brines, and fracturing fluids. It is commonly added to products such as VerXan D gum as said by Cargill, Inc.

These are well-known for maximizing drill bit penetration, handling high gravel concentrations, lowering total cost of operation, minimizing pumping friction in freshwater, limewater, and saltwater, decreasing solid build ups in drilling fluids, decreasing damage to oil formation and maintenance expense.

But, is the addition of xanthan gum even safe?

The mentioned industrial uses of the xanthan gum are not really a problem to anyone unless they are allergic to it. Generally, the usage of xanthan gum as an additive is cited as safe. According to researchers, it is safe to consume up to 15 grams of xanthan gum a day.

An article published in the British Journal of Nutrition concluded that consuming more than the recommended amount of xanthan gum can lead to increase in the frequency of defecation, stool output, and flatulence.

Many of the popular dietary protein powders use xanthan gum as an additive because it can improve texture but the amount is usually less than a gram.

With exception of the minor disturbances in digestive system because of high-consumption, xanthan gum is agreed to be harmless by the researchers.

A two year study on the effects of consuming xanthan published in the Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology Journal showed that it showed no particular side effects on dogs in the time span when given in a dose of 1 gram per kg every day.

The only noticeable effect was the frequency of stool. Other than that, there were no differences in both the groups. This means the more the xanthan is consumed, the more is the digestive system triggered.

So, unless you are consuming high amounts of xanthan gum which can disturb your system of digestion, the additive is harmless. Some researchers have even called it healthier than its alternatives such as gelatin.