Last week we talked all about wax and the week before it was maltodextrin. Now I'm looking at gum. Not chewing gum, mind you. I'm talking about other gum, gum that you would not immediately think of when you hear the word "gum". This gum comes from a somewhat less familiar source.
Xanthan gum is used mostly as a thickening and stabilizing agent, much like other gums you might find on food packaging. I'm thinking carrageenan (source: red seaweed), corn starch (source: cat videos) (Ed. note: No. Just...just no. Ridiculous!), guar gum (source: guar beans) and locust bean gum (source: not the obvious; don't worry, no locusts were harmed in the making of this gum; it actually comes from carob seeds). All of these are generally used in many similar types of products for many of the same purposes.
But xanthan gum has a more interesting provenance. Unlike the aforementioned gums, xanthan gum isn't derived from plant or animal sources. It comes from a bacteria. Technically a polysaccharide, xanthan gum comes from the bacteria xanthomonas campestris, which causes brown and black spots on vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens.
Xanthan gum is used to keep ingredients from separating in cosmetics, salad dressings and other similarly saucy products. It's also a common fake blood ingredient, to get that sticky splatter every good film shoot needs. In its powder form the gum is also a key ingredient in gluten-free flour blends. In ice cream, xanthan gum works to prevent ice crystals from forming.
Interestingly, xanthan gum is heavily used in the oil industry, to thicken drilling mud, which helps carry chunks of earth up to the surface. Despite its many applications and uses as a food additive, the oil industry remains the biggest xanthan gum user.
The internet also says that xanthan gum is used as a laxative, as a way to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in individuals with diabetes (though shouldn't be combined with diabetes meds) and as a saliva substitute for dry mouth sufferers, but side effects abound. It can cause gas and bloating, but in its powder form might suffer lung problems, nose and throat irritation and flu-like symptoms. It isn't advisable to consume more than 15 grams a day of the stuff.
Hopefully this helps you with your future gum-based decisions. If not, well, I'm at a loss because I don't know much more about gum than this.
The Kings of Summer
1 week ago