What is Gum Arabic and Is It Safe?

Gum arabic has a lot of uses particularly in stabilizing certain products. Evidence suggests that gum arabica can provide a number of possible health benefits.

gum arabic

With today’s hectic lifestyle and busy work schedule, people are now more health-conscious than ever and constantly checking the contents and ingredients of food items to ensure that they are free from any harmful or unhealthy additives and chemicals. Consumers may from time to time encounter the ingredient gum arabic in their food items particularly for various sweets such as soft drinks, cake, candies, and ice cream. However, the question that may come up would be “What is Gum Arabic and is it safe to consume?”. In this article, we will look at what gum arabic is and how safe gum arabic is for use.

What is Gum arabic?

Gum arabic is also known as chaar gund. Its different names are arabic gum, acacia gum, Senegal gum, Indian gum, and acacia powder. The acacia tree that produces gum arabic is mostly grown and cultivated in Sudan where around 50% of the total production takes place worldwide. Sudan is not the only place in the world though that can produce Although this variant of the acacia tree is also grown in parts of Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Kenya.

One interesting fact about the Acacia tree that produces Acacia gum is that once the trees are exposed to adverse conditions, the acacia tree can actually increase its production of the sap required to produce chaar gund (arabic gum). Adverse conditions such as drought, harmful heat and poor soil composition can all damage the plant or the tree to some extent but it will ultimately increase the production of the aforementioned sap.

Chaar gund is mainly made up of organic molecules called glycoproteins.  These glycoproteins are composed of sugar compounds that are bonded or clustered together forming what is called a polypeptide chain. These gums may also contain oligosaccharides and other types of sugar compounds such as ribose and arabinose. These naturally occurring sugars are some of the first types of sugars to be processed from trees. Ultimately, the chemical components of each chaar gund product may be different for one another depending on how each acacia tree was grown which considers factors such as soil composition and climate.

Uses of Gum Arabic

Arabic gum can be used in a number of different ways for various products. It may be used for food items and other industrial-grade products. One of the unique features of chaar gund is that it is considered as water-soluble. It is convenient and easy to use depending on the intended product to be manufactured. Gum Arabic is also a plant-based product making it acceptable for use by vegetarians and vegans. It is also non-GMO, gluten-free and mostly tolerated by a lot of individuals when utilized or consumed appropriately.

It also has elevated amounts of soluble fiber. This means that it can have probiotic properties that help promote gut health and aid in making individuals feel full or satiated. This feeling of being full or the feeling of satiety can also help prevent overeating and giving in to hunger cravings which can ultimately contribute to a person’s weight loss.

With all of these uses, it must be pointed out that gum arabic is used as an additive in a lot of readily packed and processed food items. These processed food items usually contain high levels of processed sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

What are the Pros and Cons?

Arabic gum has a lot of uses particularly in stabilizing certain products. These include topical emulsions, pills, and lozenges, herbal medicines, fireworks, cosmetics, shoe polish, envelopes and stamps, clay and ceramics, photography and printing supplies such as ink, watercolors and paints, soft and hard candies, different kinds of syrups, ice cream and other dairy products and other baking ingredients including desserts.

Is it safe or harmful? Let’s take a closer look.

Pros

Evidence suggests that Arabic gum can provide a number of possible health benefits such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Anti-carcinogenic due to its resins, flavonoids, and tannins
  • Can help fight against plaque in the teeth and gums
  • Reduce its insulin resistance for patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes
  • Aid the body in managing high cholesterol
  • Help in addressing Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other gut issues
  • Weight management and promotes weight loss
  • Improve the feeling of being full and satiated
  • Prebiotic
  • Provide the body with significant amounts of good soluble fiber

Generally, Arabic gum is considered non-toxic, safe and edible for humans. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) stated that both animals and humans may find gum to be impossible to digest but Gum arabic has been specifically labeled as a form of dietary fiber that is edible and may even positively contribute to the overall health of individuals such as heart health, gut health, and digestive system.

Cons

While Arabic gum has a lot of health benefits, there can also be risks or disadvantages in terms of its usage. It can cause digestive issues when used in large quantities. These digestive issues may include:

  • Bloating, gas or flatulence
  • Nausea in the morning
  • Uncomfortable texture in the mount or palette
  • Mild diarrhea or indigestion

To avoid or prevent this from happening, experts are recommending that individuals only consume it in moderate quantities such as 30 grams per day. The take away from all this is that Arabic gum is relatively safe for most people and individuals and it is all just a matter of taking this product in moderation and with consideration of the possible allergic reactions of the body to the excess consumption of Arabic gum.

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