Xanthan Gum: What’s the Verdict on Safety?

Is xanthan gum bad for you? This powdered ingredient is a common food additive used in several foods. It works as a thickening agent, emulsifier, and stabilizer and helps prevent other ingredients from separating. Many people wonder whether xanthan gum has side effects.

This article examines whether xanthan gum is best avoided or is just a harmless food additive. Hpmc Products

Xanthan Gum: What’s the Verdict on Safety?

Xanthan gum was approved as a food additive by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1969. It's used as a stabilizing agent and thickener in many foods, some of which you likely eat regularly. You can also purchase xanthan gum in powdered form in most grocery stores, where it's usually found in the baking section.

Nutritionally, xanthan gum is pretty unimpressive and is primarily carbohydrate. A 9 gram (g)—a little less than 2 teaspoons—serving contributes the following to your diet:

Let's look at the potential benefits and side effects of consuming xanthan gum.

Xanthan gum is a soluble fiber that your body cannot digest. Instead, xanthan gum absorbs water as it moves through your system and helps slow digestion. This also means it doesn't provide any nutrients or calories as it passes.

Soluble fiber offers benefits to your gut microbiome. This is the community of microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that live in your digestive tract. Research shows that dietary fiber helps feed and boost beneficial bacteria in the gut and supports overall digestive health.

Some people report side effects from consuming xanthan gum, such as:

However, digestive side effects are more likely when xanthan gum is consumed in large amounts. Xanthan gum is otherwise generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA for most people when consumed in everyday foods.

Furthermore, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) assigned xanthan gum an acceptable daily intake of "not specified," suggesting low toxicity and minimal health threats. The JECFA is an international scientific committee under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). It plays a substantial role in evaluating the safety of food additives.

If you need a xanthan gum alternative, there are several that can work just as well.

The best alternatives for xanthan gum include:

The FDA recognizes xanthan gum as an ingredient that can safely be used in food. It's made from the process of sugar being fermented by Xanthomonas campestris bacteria. This process forms a gel, which is made solid and purified with the addition of alcohol. Then, it's dried and milled into a powder form, which can be used in foods.

As a thickening agent and emulsifier, xanthan gum is used in various foods to improve texture and consistency and prevent other ingredients from separating. Some of the most common places to find xanthan gum on the ingredient list include:

The best way to know whether something contains xanthan gum is to read the ingredients list.

While xanthan gum is considered to be safe for most people when consumed in normal amounts in food, there are certain groups who could experience more pros or cons from doing so.

Xanthan gum is a soluble fiber, which means it absorbs water as it passes through your digestive system. This can help bulk up stool, making it softer and easier to pass. For this reason, it may be a beneficial ingredient for individuals experiencing irregular bowel movements.

Furthermore, the ability of xanthan gum to thicken liquids may be helpful for individuals who have trouble swallowing. For example, people who have neurological disorders or people of advanced age may benefit from consuming thickened liquids versus thin liquids, as the latter can become a safety hazard.

If you have a severe allergy to dairy, wheat, corn, or soy, you may want to avoid xanthan gum as it can potentially be made with sugar derived from any of these sources. If you're concerned about allergies or other reactions to food additives, it may also be best to look for items that don't contain xanthan gum. Otherwise, there appear to be no major science-backed safety concerns about xanthan gum.

Xanthan gum is a commonly used food additive that thickens and stabilizes ingredients. It's often found in condiments, frozen foods, sauces, and gluten-free flours. Xanthan gum is considered safe for most healthy people as part of their regular diet. It may even have gut health benefits. However, some people may experience digestive symptoms like increased gassiness if they eat it in large amounts.

Overall, xanthan gum is a generally harmless food additive that helps thicken foods. If you want to avoid it, just read ingredient labels and consider the alternatives above when preparing foods at home.

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By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a plant-based dietitian, writer, and speaker who specializes in helping people bring more plants to their plate. She's a highly respected writer in the health and nutrition space and loves talking about the power of diet. Lauren aims to connect people with the information and resources to live their healthiest, fullest life.

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Xanthan Gum: What’s the Verdict on Safety?

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