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Locust Bean Gum: Benefits, Uses and Nutritional Value

Locust bean gum, as its name implies, comes from the seeds of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua). It’s a food additive of natural origin that is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and cream cheese.

And, although it isn’t as well known, it’s often mixed with xanthan gum or carrageenan to obtain a thicker food. In sweetened products it enhances its effect; in addition, in frozen products, it helps delay the formation of ice crystals. What is its nutritional value? What are its benefits? Find out here!

Nutritional Value of Locust Bean Gum

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that locust bean gum contains the following:

  • Calories: 94.1 kcal.
  • Fat: 0.135 grams.
  • Sodium: 35.4 milligrams.
  • Protein: 1.3 grams.
  • Fiber: 21.9 grams.
  • Sugars: None.

These measurements are for 28 grams, which represents one ounce. They’re expressed this way because what is usually used is one or two tablespoons, even three if applied to a cold food such as ice cream.

Health Benefits of Carob Bean Gum

Locust bean gum is known to have a thickening effect, although few know about its health benefits. We’ll tell you more about what science says about it.

1. Regulates blood lipids

This gum contains a substance called “galactomannan polysaccharides”, which is a type of soluble fiber. That is what allows the products to thicken and gel when it’s added to them. Moreover, it’s a fiber linked to lowering bad blood cholesterol (LDL).

  • Human studies

In this sense, in research in adults with high cholesterol, it was observed that the daily ingestion of 15 grams of carob fiber, for 6 weeks, reduced “bad” cholesterol or LDL by 12 percent and total cholesterol by 7 percent.

There are 2 mechanisms that explain this effect. One, it occurs directly, when the mucilage-like fiber of locust gum forms a gel in the intestine that traps dietary cholesterol which is produced within the body itself. It is then excreted in the feces.

The indirect form occurs when the gum excretes the bile salts that are released to digest fats. These are produced from cholesterol in the liver. So, the more bile is excreted, the more cholesterol will be needed to produce them again, generating a cycle between the intestine and the liver. In the end, LDL cholesterol in the blood is also reduced.

  • Animal studies

Experiments in animal models also seem to support these results. A study that analyzed the effect of carob fiber on fat digestion in healthy rats determined that this substance favors the reduction of blood lipids. And this effect was observed after the fats were digested and absorbed.

Another test performed on rabbits indicated that the insoluble dietary fiber in carob abundant in polyphenols could reduce the development of atherosclerosis.

The results suggested that carob fiber is able to decrease mixed dyslipidemia by increasing the levels of liver enzymes involved in cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism. More human studies are needed to confirm the effect of locust bean gum on diseases related to blood lipid disorders.

2. Protects and feeds the intestine

Locust bean gum contains galactomannans, a type of soluble fiber that favors the growth of intestinal microflora. A group of experts has affirmed this. This fiber decreases the growth of disease-causing bacteria while increasing beneficial bacteria, called lactobacilli.

In the Spanish magazine NutriNews they explain that galactomannans bind to intestinal bacteria, preventing them from sticking to the walls of the intestine and, consequently, blocking their overgrowth. Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli reduce the risk of infections while the rest of the microflora keeps intestinal functions intact.

In addition, this soluble fiber has a prebiotic effect, nourishing lactobacilli and promoting their growth. In this way, they act directly on the function of the intestinal barrier under normal conditions and during exposure to harmful bacteria to the body.

3. It has anti-reflux activity

The thickening effect of locust bean gum has been reported to improve the feeding of infants with reflux problems. In this regard, it has been found that, by reducing the usual concentration of this gum in the formula, it has the same effect as when used in the standard concentration. Babies decreased regurgitation by at least 50 percent.

Another study compared the efficacy of infant formula milk with and without locust. In particular, 56 eligible infants, between 1 and 6 months of age, were randomly assigned to receive formula with different concentrations of galactomannan for two weeks.

It turned out that only infants who received the formula milk with 0.33 grams of galactomannan per 100 milliliters, diluted while cold, decreased reflux, gained weight, and improved tolerance. Whereas proportions of 0.45 grams per 100 milliliters of formula, diluted both cold and hot, did not improve symptoms.

To be more precise, 0.33 grams per 100 milliliters of cold galactomannans was effective in reducing reflux rates. Moreover, they were well tolerated by infants.

Further research on infants who consumed formulas with 0.350 grams of locust gum, another with 0.450 grams and another group without the product reported that only those who consumed locust gum had an improvement with gastric reflux.

4. Possible anti-diabetic effect

In 2015, a study on products made with carob flour revealed that all had a low glycemic index and glycemic load. The high insoluble fiber content of this flour decreases intestinal transit time, increases fecal bolus, and slows sugar absorption and starch breakdown. In this way, the sugar is absorbed progressively in the blood.

On the other hand, in research on rats, it was observed that locust bean gum can reduce glucose levels in the blood and, incidentally, increase the glycogen content of the liver. Another similar study found that this product is able to reduce hunger and blood sugar.

However, there aren’t many studies in humans to corroborate these effects.

Locust bean gum contraindications

For now, locust bean gum is considered safe for most healthy adults. Experts only recommend you avoid contact with this substance in cases of allergies. However, no cases of allergy have been reported due to its ingestion. Its consumption in large quantities should be avoided, as it tends to cause flatulence.

And to summarise…

Locust bean gum isn’t just a simple food additive. Aside from the consistency it can give to recipes, it also appears to have positive effects in relieving reflux and lowering cholesterol and blood sugar.

A very interesting aspect is that only small amounts are required to achieve its effects. For example, only a 0.35-gram serving is capable of having anti-reflux effects in infants.

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