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Finally! There is a food additive that is actually derived from a plant rather than an army of genetically-engineered bacteria. Guar gum is derived from a legume (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) commonly called the cluster bean. Eighty percent of the world’s production of this food emulsifier comes from India.
The cluster bean is similar to the snap bean, with many pods containing six to ten small seeds or beans per pod. The gum is taken from the endosperm of the seed, which comprises about half of each seed – making guar a very rich source of the gum.
The guar gum is used as a thickening agent found in many conventional, natural, and organic foods and baked goods alike. It is considered a very safe natural soluble fiber, marketed also as Benefiber and Sunfiber. The research on guar gum as a health promoter is compelling. In one study entitled, “Guar gum: a miracle therapy for hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia and obesity,” research suggested it has noteworthy health properties. (6)
Blood Sugar Support
There are many studies suggesting numerous health benefits from the use of guar gum. It is rich in a soluble fiber called galactomannan, which is commercially derived from fenugreek seeds and is well-known for its fiber that promotes healthy levels of blood sugar. (1,2,3)
Most soluble fibers are natural carbohydrate- or sugar-blockers in the intestinal tract. The thick, viscous nature of soluble fibers generally slows the absorption of sugars as well as other nutrients, so its use should not be excessive.
Guar gum has also been shown to support cardiovascular health. Supplementing with guar gum showed a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular complications in diabetic patients. (9)
Guar gum has also been found to act as a natural prebiotic, supporting the proliferation of other healthy and beneficial gut microbes. In one study, both FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and PHGG (partially hydrolyzed guar gum) were measured in their ability to boost levels of good gut microbes. FOS is a well-known prebiotic, but guar gum is a relatively unknown prebiotic at this point. The study showed a significant increase of bifidobacteria after ingesting the guar gum. (4)
In one study, guar gum helped balance cholesterol by 10% in patients who were not responding to cholesterol medications. (5) It is generally accepted that bile acid levels are reduced in the presence of soluble fibers. Some studies suggest that there may be additional pathways for soluble fibers like guar gum to increase cholesterol excretion. (7)
Guar Gum Side Effects
Some folks have reported an uncomfortable amount of intestinal gas when ingesting guar gum. As with most soluble fibers, they will act as a natural prebiotic. Good microbes make gas as they multiply, and while this might be healthy gas, it can also be very uncomfortable. Anyone with symptoms of intestinal sensitivity should made aware of the possibilities of excess gas from the ingestion of guar gum.
The only other side effects of guar gum I could find were associated with when it is used as a diet pill. In these situations, the guar gum was given in significant quantities to block absorption of nutrients and create false levels of satiety with intestinal bulk. In some of these cases, the guar gum diet pills caused intestinal and esophageal blockages. (8) These products have been recently banned in the United States.
However, when used safely and in proper quantity, guar gum is a compelling and little-known natural food-additive that can support our health!