Is Xanthan Gum A Sugar Alcohol? The Key Facts

Are you curious about xanthan gum and its properties?

You may have heard that it’s a type of carbohydrate, but is it also a sugar alcohol?

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind xanthan gum and its production process.

We’ll also look at its various uses in food and other industries.

So, let’s dive in and discover the truth about xanthan gum!

Is Xanthan Gum A Sugar Alcohol?

Xanthan gum is not a sugar alcohol. It is actually a type of carbohydrate that is made up of long chains of simple sugars. These chains are created through a fermentation process that involves the use of bacteria and alcohol.

While sugar alcohols are also commonly used in food production, they are a different type of compound altogether. Sugar alcohols are created through a process that involves the reduction of sugars, resulting in a compound that has both sugar and alcohol properties.

Xanthan gum, on the other hand, is created by fermenting sugar with strains of bacteria and adding alcohol to create a powder that can be easily added to food products. This powder helps to thicken and stabilize products, making it a popular ingredient in items like salad dressings, sauces, and even personal care products like toothpaste.

What Is Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan gum is a popular food additive that is commonly used as a thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier in many products. It is created through a fermentation process that involves the use of a type of bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. When sugar is fermented by this bacteria, it creates a goo-like substance that is made solid by adding an alcohol. This substance is then dried and turned into a powder.

When xanthan gum powder is added to a liquid, it quickly disperses and creates a viscous and stable solution. This makes it a great thickening, suspending, and stabilizing agent for many products. It is commonly used in condiments such as salad dressings and sauces, jams and fruit fillings, and even ice cream to keep the texture smooth and prevent the formation of ice crystals.

Xanthan gum is also used in personal care and beauty products like toothpaste and moisturizers to give them a smooth texture. Since xanthan gum is derived from bacteria, it is usually vegan-friendly. However, some xanthan gum could be produced with animal-derived products like whey.

It is important to note that xanthan gum is not a sugar alcohol, which is a different type of compound altogether. Xanthan gum is actually a type of carbohydrate that is made up of long chains of simple sugars created through fermentation with bacteria and alcohol.

Xanthan Gum Production Process

The production of xanthan gum is a complex process that involves fermentation, concentration, and purification. The initial step in the production process is the fermentation of a strain of Xanthomonas bacteria in a nutrient medium that contains a carbon source, nitrogen, and salts. The bacteria produce the xanthan gum extracellularly into the medium, resulting in a fermentation broth that contains about 2-3% xanthan gum.

The next step in the process is concentration and purification. The fermentation broth is concentrated by ultrafiltration (UF) to obtain a UF retentate that contains 5-10% concentrated high-molecular-weight xanthan gum and a UF permeate that contains mainly water with some low-molecular-weight xanthan gum, salts, and sugars. The UF permeate stream can be further treated by reverse osmosis (RO) to obtain a pure water stream for recycling to the fermenter and a concentrated stream of low-molecular-weight xanthan gum, salts, and sugars.

The concentrated xanthan gum in the UF retentate is further purified by precipitation in methanol. From the precipitation with methanol, the crude xanthan gum is recovered by decanter. The xanthan gum is then dried and milled resulting in a white to cream-colored free-flowing powder. The light phase of the decanter can be purified by UF recovering lost xanthan gum for recycling to the precipitation step and methanol for distillation recycling to the precipitation step.

Xanthan Gum In The Food Industry

Xanthan gum has become an increasingly popular additive in the food industry since it was approved for use in 1969. It is commonly used as a stabilizer and thickener, helping to prevent ingredients from separating and improving the consistency, shelf life, flavor, and appearance of food products.

One of the most significant uses of xanthan gum in the food industry is as a substitute for gluten in gluten-free cooking. Since flour contains gluten, which is a common allergen, many people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease rely on substitutes like xanthan gum to thicken their food.

Xanthan gum is used in a wide range of food products, including ice cream, bakery items, salad dressings, sauces, soups, and confectionery. It is also used in low-calorie foods and convenience foods in general.

In addition to its use in food products, xanthan gum is also used in personal care products like toothpaste and industrial products like cleaners and coatings. Its ability to withstand different temperatures and pH levels, cling to surfaces, and thicken liquids make it a versatile ingredient in many different industries.

Other Industries That Use Xanthan Gum

Aside from the food industry, xanthan gum is also widely used in other industries. One such industry is the cosmetics and personal care industry. Xanthan gum is often used as a thickener in products like lotions, creams, and shampoos. It helps to give these products a smooth and consistent texture, making them easier to apply and use.

Another industry that uses xanthan gum is the pharmaceutical industry. Xanthan gum is often used as a binder in tablets and capsules, helping to hold the ingredients together and ensure that they are released slowly over time. It can also be used as a suspending agent in liquid medications, helping to keep the active ingredients evenly distributed throughout the product.

Xanthan gum is also commonly used in the oil and gas industry. It is added to drilling fluids to help control viscosity and prevent the fluids from breaking down under high pressure and temperature conditions. Xanthan gum can also be used in hydraulic fracturing fluids, helping to improve their flow properties and reduce friction.

Finally, xanthan gum is used in the textile industry as a sizing agent for fabrics. It helps to improve the strength and durability of fabrics, making them more resistant to wear and tear.

Potential Health Benefits And Risks Of Xanthan Gum

Research on the health effects of xanthan gum is limited, but it is generally considered safe for consumption. The FDA has approved its use as a food additive and the Environmental Working Group has also deemed it safe. In fact, some studies have even suggested that xanthan gum may have potential health benefits.

One such benefit is its potential to help lower blood sugar levels. Several studies have shown that larger doses of xanthan gum may reduce blood sugar, especially in those with diabetes. Additionally, some studies have found that xanthan gum may help with weight loss and better digestive regularity.

However, it’s important to note that consuming too much xanthan gum can have negative effects. One potential side effect is that it can have a laxative effect, which can be problematic for those with digestive issues or sensitive stomachs. Additionally, consuming excess amounts of fiber, including xanthan gum, can cause gas and diarrhea.