Is Guar Gum Bad For you?

by drcharles on April 25, 2013

Guar Bean ClusterIt is increasingly difficult to find real ice cream.  When reading the ingredient list it is discouraging how many cheap fillers, consistency modifiers, and shelf life extenders are included.  One ingredient, namely guar gum, seems fairly ubiquitous.  So what is guar gum, and why is it found in so many products including ice cream?  Is it “bad” to eat?

Guar gum is the ground endosperm of the guar bean, usually produced as a whitish powder similar to flour.  It functions to thicken fluids, increase viscosity, reduce ice crystal formation, and act as a stabilizer and emulsifier.  It thickens water 8 times as well as cornstarch.

Most guar beans are grown in the arid regions of India and Australia.  It finds applications in many industries, including the food, textile, printing, explosives, pharmaceutical, and even hydraulic fracturing fields. Due to the boom of hydraulic fracturing in the US drilling companies like Halliburton created a large demand for guar gum recently, even creating a spike and bubble in the price of the commodity as they hoarded it.  Now it seems they are utilizing more synthetic, polymer based slurries to please shareholders and further defecate in our future water supplies, but I digress…

As a food additive it seems that such strange bedfellow industries would intuitively make one want to avoid such a product.  The safety and caloric value of guar gum, however, does not seem that bad.  As a polysaccharide fiber it is mostly indigestible for humans and has been touted as a source of soluble fiber.  It may actually contribute to a sense of fullness, lower glycemic index, and when taken in medicinal doses have a mild lowering effect on cholesterol.  It has been studied in irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, and has been found to have some utility in decreasing symptoms.  The FDA has banned guar gum as a weight loss pill due to reports of the substance swelling and obstructing the intestines and esophagus.  It has also been found to be a positive influence on the biotic flora of the intestines, acting as a prebiotic for beneficial bacteria.

In terms of environmental impact, guar plants grow in near drought conditions, and like other legumes harbor nitrogen fixing bacteria in the roots, making them a good crop in a rotation to improve the yield of successive crops.  Guar plants are susceptible to weed problems, and I would assume herbicides are used by large producers to control competitors.

Guar gum gets a favorable 1/10 rating from Environmental Working Group, indicating that studies and existing knowledge of the substance show low risks of carcinogenesis and environmental impact of the end product, but there is a small risk of allergenic properties.

So overall it would seem that guar gum is not so bad as an additive to processed foods.  That being said I prefer unprocessed or minimally processed foods, and some ice crystals and inhomogeneity in my ice cream is preferred.  In a world of infinite time I would feed my cows grass, pay someone else to milk them, and then spin that fresh milk with the other requisite ingredients into a fine, fresh ice cream delicacy.  Short of this I look for ice cream with minimal signs of superfluous, gratuitous ingredients, and accept that I live in an over-processed world.  Ice cream will never be considered a healthy food, but life is short and full of pain, and the pleasure derived from eating good ice cream is hard to deny.

And so if I am forced to eat some guar gum in ice cream or the like, I won’t stress that much.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

greta October 19, 2013 at 10:20 pm

That was really helpful thanks 🙂

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green October 24, 2013 at 3:57 am

good info. thanks

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Robert November 22, 2013 at 11:53 am

Thank you very much 🙂
What about Arabic gum and Xantham gum ?

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Dam February 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Why wouldn’t ice cream be a healthy food ? In Europe you can find some brands of organic ice cream made with fresh milk and cream, and just a handful of other ingredients. There really isn’t anything bad to that. Ice cream is associated with junk food, especially in the US, where it is a typical example of heavily-processed food.

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Shyann February 4, 2014 at 11:13 am

Unless the ice cream has all natural whole ingredients it is not healthy @ dam…milk is so unhealthy .. What factory farms and normal farms feed those cows so much poison and the way those cows are brought up and how they are treated… So sad and so bad….the government wants everyone to think milk is healthy because of the calcium and protein sure if it was just that it would be great but they don’t tell you what’s actually in it like all the hormones and antibiotics that are directly linked to cancer …. Even small farms raise there animals like factory farms so that they can keep up with the industry … And even if you do find a farm that’s really good and let’s there animals run free and feeds them what they are suppose to be feed those animals are still getting slaughtered the same way.. And the cows that are for milking are treated very bad too… Best to make your own ice cream without milk.. But that’s your choice.. Good luck..

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Sharon February 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Shyann – “Natural” is a non-word in American food. You have to use organic food to be safe. Everything that says “natural” is a scam. When you see the word natural, they are trying to trick you, so be careful.

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c. shryock-o,brien March 15, 2014 at 3:26 am

when i was growing up in the fifties my parents made ice cream, bananna in fact, for special holidays. it was always, “bill, don’t forget to get perfectly yellow bananas and local heavy dairy cream “! never once did i hear her say “oh, by the way bill don’t forget the guar bean gum.” i would give anything for a bowl of that delicious treat. thanks Nelda and Bill S. for a taste of REAL HEAVEN!

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c. shryock-o,brien March 15, 2014 at 3:28 am

this site answered my questions about guar gum ingestion. thanks

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Rajesh Patel November 3, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Good
Thx for giving information
But can u say pls how to make guar gum from
It’s beans ????
Many thanks

Reply

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