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Food Additive Spotlight - Guar Gum

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Guar gum, also called guaran, is a natural polysaccharide, and it is extracted from the seed of the leguminous shrub Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, where it acts as a food and water store. Guar gum is found in mostly in Pakistan and India, but smaller crops are also grown in the United States, Australia, and Africa. Guar gum is primarily used as a thickening agent, stabilizer and emulsifier or binder.

Guar gum is used in the food industry as a thickener and binder of free water. Much like xanthan gum, guar gum is only needed in small quantities to produce sufficient viscosity, making it a popular choice for a wide variety of foods.


Guar gum is used in sauces, salad dressings, ice creams, instant noodles, processed meats, bread improvers/baked goods, and beverages, to name a few. In baked goods, guar gum increases dough yield, gives greater resiliency, and improves texture and shelf life. In dairy products guar gum thickens products such as milk and yogurt, and it helps maintain homogeneity and texture of ice creams, and also sherbets. In processed meats, it functions as a binder and lubricant and it improves the appearance and stability of barbecue sauces, ketchups, dressings, and relishes.


Guar gum is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; however, several studies indicate that guar gum may reduce the absorbability of some dietary minerals, including calcium. Other studies suggest that guar gum may lower cholesterol, aid in weight-loss, and help control diabetes. Because guar gum is a water-soluble fiber that acts as a bulk forming laxative, it is believed that it promotes regular bowel movements and relieves constipation or other symptoms associated with colitis, Crohn’s Disease, diverticulosis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), to name a few.

While there are no known side effects in the concentrations used, unusually high concentrations may cause excessive bloating and flatulence due to fermentation by the intestinal microflora -- much in the same way as all indigestible polysaccharides.


Guar gum may be used for cosmetics and toiletries such as conditioner, shampoos, and toothpaste. It is also used in the explosives industry, the paper industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the textile industry. Guar gum is also used in the oil industry as a natural thickener. Xanthan gum can be added to water to increase its viscosity, or thickness. It is also used in mining and in pet foods.