Healthy additive? Xanthan gum may lower blood sugar levels

27 Jan 2023

A xanthan gum-based food additive can decrease blood sugar levels after a meal – and may represent a low-cost method for food brands to improve metabolic health through their products, scientists suggest.

Writing in the Journal of Functional Foods, Japanese scientists detail how the thickener is able to increase expression of the Glp1 and Glp1r genes involved in blood glucose level control.

Healthy additive? Xanthan gum may lower blood sugar levels
© iStock/Michelle Lee Photography

Other findings include positive alterations to the gut microbiome with the thickener thought responsible for an increase in the Erysipelotrichales and Christensenellaceae gut bacteria populations linked to Glp1 and Glp1r expression.

“This is the first study to show the suppressive effect of fluid thickeners on postprandial blood glucose with evaluating comprehensive gene expression in the ileum and gut microbiome,” the team wrote.

“In addition, xanthan gum-based fluid thickeners may ameliorate glucose/lipid metabolism.

“Further studies are required to clarify the clinical effects and identify the bioactive components in xanthan gum-based fluid thickeners.”

The findings – based on this study on rats – could add to a variety of foods said to be effective in controlling postprandial blood glucose level. These include vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Xanthan gum-based fluid thickeners are primarily used in medical food applications, for example in helping to manage dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) by increasing the viscosity of fluids. The soluble fibre dissolves and hydrates very rapidly, producing high viscous mixtures in low concentrations.

Six-week-old rats used to assess xanthan gum’s properties

The Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) team began by dividing six-week-old rats into two groups. One received 4 millilitres (ml) of xanthan gum-based fluid thickener (Th group) while the other received 4ml of saline solution (Co group) for five weeks 30 min before glucose administration.

An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was then performed 4 weeks after the beginning of the experiment.

Glucose (2 grams per kilogram (g/kg)) was then administered orally, and blood glucose levels were measured at 30 min before and 0, 30, 60, 90, and 120 min after glucose administration.

The team noted that blood glucose levels at 60 and 90 minutes after glucose administration substantially decreased in the Th group.

Glp1 and Glp1r expression in the ileum was significantly upregulated after continuous administration of thickener.

Further analysis revealed that cholesterol balance, fatty acid metabolism, and glycolysis gene sets were enriched in the ileum of Th group.

© iStock/ChrisChrisW© iStock/ChrisChrisW

Microbial composition in the gut was also altered after administrating the fluid thickener, with relative abundance of Erysipelotrichales and Christensenellaceae showed positive correlations with Glp1 and Glp1r expression in the ileum.

Food as medicine

Jerusalem artichoke, whey protein, yoghurt, nuts, and some oils also appear to suppress the increase in postprandial blood glucose.

Yoghurt contains calcium and vitamin D and a meta-analysis indicated that combined supplementation of these nutrients might be beneficial in optimizing glucose metabolism.

Pine nut oil also enhanced postprandial GLP-1 secretion and reduced appetite. The scientists commented: “Dietary therapy, including the consumption of medicinal food items, may help to reduce the prevalence of diabetes and its complications.”

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