What is Xanthan Gum?

What is Xanthan or Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan or xanthan gum is a complex carbohydrate , a high molecular weight polysaccharide obtained by bacterial fermentation of a simple carbon hydrate, such as glucose or sucrose .

Xanthan production

Natural strains of Xanthomonas campestris are used to produce xanthan gum , hence its name.
The product obtained from this microbial fermentation is purified by extraction with ethanol, or with propan-2-ol, then dried and ground to obtain xanthan gum . The latter comes in the form of a cream-colored powder, particularly soluble in water or brine , but insoluble in alcohol .

Composition of Xanthan Gum

As anticipated, we are talking about a complex carbohydrate, a polysaccharide consisting of monomers of simple sugars . Among these, the main hexoses (sugars with six carbon atoms) are D-glucose and D- mannose , while the concentration of D-glucuronic and pyruvic acids is also noteworthy.

Applications of Xanthan

Xanthan gum is used:

  • In the field of dietetics and food supplementation (which we will discuss in more detail in the next chapters)
  • In the pharmaceutical field
  • As a food additive
  • In cosmetics.

Xanthan gum as a food additive

The xanthan gum recognizes numerous applications in the food industry, where it is used as a thickener and stabilizer additive , which is marked by the code E415. A minimal addition of this additive (0.5-1% or less) allows you to greatly increase the viscosity of a drink or the texture (consistency) of a food.
Xanthan gum is used for example for the formulation of sauces , gravies , desserts and gluten-free foods , since – thanks to the thixotropic properties of its dispersions – these products can be heated or refrigerated without losing thickness.

Recipe example with Xanthan

Homemade Margarine


Homemade Margarine – Vegetable Butter

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Let us briefly recall that thixotropism is the phenomenon whereby a colloidal system can pass from the state of sol to that of gel, passing from a mechanical agitation to one of rest, and vice versa. From a rheological point of view, xanthan gum therefore has properties that are intermediate between those of a solution and those of a gel. At rest (for example when the ketchup is inside the container or spread on the chips), xanthan increases in consistency, and then decreases it when subjected to mechanical shear forces (for example when we shake the ketchup bottle before use).

Xanthan gum in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical fields

To learn more, read: Xanthan gum in cosmetics ”


In the cosmetic and pharmaceutical field, xanthan gum proves to be an excellent stabilizer for suspensions and emulsions (essentially it prevents the separation of the various ingredients).


When to use Xanthan Gum?

Xanthan or xanthan gum is used as a food supplement in order to increase:

  • palatability
  • satiating power
  • consistency

of some types of food, in particular:

  • low in fat and calories ( lightor low fat)
  • gluten-freebaked goods (for celiacs )
  • meal replacement powder.

Properties and Effectiveness

What benefit has Xanthan shown during the studies?

Since xanthan gum efficiently absorbs water, it facilitates the transit of stool by counteracting constipation .

According to a study, which provided 18 healthy volunteers with xanthan gum for 10 days, this product proved to be a highly effective laxative.
Xanthan is also able to modulate the absorption of carbohydrates by decreasing the glycemic and insulin index of meals; therefore, it is a valid ally against hyperglycemia , hypertriglyceridemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus .

Doses and Directions for Use

How to use Xanthan

Information on the dosage of xanthan or xanthan gum as a dietary supplement is scarce and undefined. Instead, there are several indications on its use as an additive, but these are applications with totally different purposes.


The dose of xanthan gum aimed at fighting constipation is approximately 15 g / day with plenty of water. Note : This dosage usually cannot be achieved with normal consumption of supplements and foods containing it.
As a food supplement to combat hyperglycemia, about 12 / g day of xanthan gum is recommended, to be taken after meals with plenty of water.

Side effects

Some people react sensitively to lower than average amounts of xanthan, developing symptoms of bloating and diarrhea.
Remember that xanthan gum can be made from products containing common allergens, such as wheat, wheat , milk and soy . Therefore, sensitive people must refrain from consumption or inquire about the origin of the product.

The allergic reactions or food intolerance mainly concern the protein components of corn , soybeans and wheat. For example, gluten has been detected in substantial amounts but less than 20 ppm of gluten, which is the EU limit for “gluten-free” labeling.


Note : Taking xanthan or xanthan gum without getting the right amount of water can lead to intestinal constipation .


When should Xanthan not be used?

Xanthan or xanthan gum is a fairly safe product, but there are still some contraindications:

  • It is first of all contraindicated in the presence of certain pharmacological therapies (generally, it should never be taken together with a drug or other supplements), allergic sensitivity, intolerances and intestinal pathologies ( chronic inflammatory diseases, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome , intestinal resections, .)
  • It is good to remember that in certain situations, or with the presence of some symptoms, it is not recommended to take any laxative that could worsen the clinical picture or hide a serious disease. These symptoms are: nausea, vomiting , appendicitis , hard and difficult to pass stools (fecal constipation), narrowing or blockage of the intestine, or idiopathic stomach pain .
  • It is responsible for a specific occupational risk: the evaluation of the workers exposed to this dust has shown a link between the product and some respiratory symptoms.
  • May be harmful to infants: On May 20, 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a press release referring to “SimplyThick,” a food thickener containing xanthan or xanthan gum. The warning, referred to parents, operators and suppliers of sanitary items was not to feed children with this product, due to the lack of data on the possible impact on the health of the little ones. The concern was that the product could cause necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature babies.

Pharmacological interactions

What drugs or foods can modify the effect of Xanthan?

Xanthan or xanthan gum must be avoided in case of ongoing drug therapy or concomitant use of food supplements with laxative purposes. The latter contraindication does not depend on a possible chemical reaction, but on the risk of synergistic activity between laxatives, with the onset of severe diarrhea and malnutrition .

Xanthan or xanthan gum can also interact with diabetes drug therapy . By reducing the absorption of sugars, this product can promote hypoglycemia . Some medications used for diabetes include:

  • Glimepiride
  • Glyburide
  • Insulin
  • Pioglitazone
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Chlorpropamide
  • Glipizide

Precautions for Use

What do you need to know before taking Xanthan?

Except as mentioned in the side effects, contraindications and drug interactions sections, no other precautions are recommended for the use of xanthan or xanthan gum.
It is advisable to stop using it at least two weeks before any surgery, as there is the possibility that it may in some way modify the glycemic structure even in the medium term.


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