Guar Gum: The Fiber with a Swagger
Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Guar gum is a unique soluble fiber, a type of nondigestible complex carbohydrate that holds water as it forms a gel in your digestive tract. This may have some rather profound effects on your metabolism, including reducing total cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, increasing HDL cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar response to a meal, reducing digestive inflammation, curbing appetite, and assisting weight loss efforts.
Guar gum comes from the guar bean, which is a legume. American diets are woefully lacking in legumes, even though they are the only food type across different cultures that is associated with longevity1. This fact alone makes guar gum a good fiber choice.
Technically, guar gum is galactomannan gum, a glyconutrient with a mannose backbone and galactose branches. Special water-utilizing production processes (no chemicals) now enable a partially hydrolyzed guar gum. This extremely unique fiber dissolves completely in water and has no taste, making it very easy to consume.
Guar gum soluble fiber can help you manage your weight in a number of different ways. These include reduced appetite with a corresponding lower intake of calories, improved blood sugar metabolism and triglyceride levels, and improved friendly flora in your digestive tract that supports healthier metabolic signaling.
Guar gum uses several mechanisms to reduce your appetite. By forming a water-holding gel, the contents of your meal moves forward more slowly. This provides a sensation of digestive fullness, which means you are less likely to eat as much (especially if you take some a half hour before a meal).
Partially hydrolyzed guar gum raises the level of CCK2 (cholecystokinin), which sends a digestive message to your brain that you are full. Interestingly, CCK is typically stimulated by high fat or high protein, so this is one way of helping to get a full signal without actually eating the calories. It is a tricky way to convince your brain you have eaten more food than you really did. Low calorie whey protein also stimulates CCK, which is why a protein drink with extra fiber can have such a great metabolic response in terms of feeling satisfied.
By slowing the digestive process (slowing gastric emptying3) there is a reduction in the rise of blood sugar following a meal that contains guar gum. A study with obese individuals found that guar gum could reduce blood sugar levels4 by 10 percent, thus improving insulin function. Participants in this study lost significant weight without changing other aspects of their diet, as well as experienced a noticeable reduction in hunger.
Partially hydrolyzed guar gum has been shown to reduce the amount of cholesterol particles and triglycerides5 in the period following a meal. Lower triglycerides enable leptin to enter your brain more readily, which also helps give you a full signal, and is vital to feeling energized by the meal. This means you metabolism, including your fat burning activity, gets in gear better. Also, a lower nonfasting triglyceride level is now seen as a key variable in the prevention of heart disease6.
A 90 day study of type II diabetics7, taking 5 grams of soluble fiber before each meal, including guar gum, was shown to improve blood glucose metabolism and lower HbA1c by 10 percent. Triglycerides were lowered 14 percent, total cholesterol by 14 percent, LDL cholesterol by 28 percent, and HDL was boosted by 28 percent. Many studies have reported that guar gum lowers cholesterol8 by 10 percent to 15 percent. These types of studies have led researchers to claim that guar gum is “a miracle therapy9 for hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia and obesity.”
The friendly flora in your digestive tract use soluble fiber like guar gum as a fermenting base, which enables them to reproduce and boost their numbers, helping to offset symptoms of irritable bowel10. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum has been proven to boost the levels of friendly bifidobacteria and lactobacillis acidophilus. New science shows that a lack of friendly flora is linked to obesity risk. Hostile digestive contents churn out inflammatory signals that clog metabolism.
Partially hydrolyzed guar gum does not interfere with mineral absorption11, nor does it reduce the absorption12 of any type of calorie. It helps regularity by adding bulk to your stools, in the form of increased bacterial and water content. It has been shown to reduce diarrhea13 and is supportive of improved digestive immune function14 (boosting antibody production15 in GI lymph tissue). As with any fiber, increase intake gradually to avoid excess gas formation from its normal lower colon increase in fermentation. Clinical trials16 show that partially hydrolyzed guar gum is not only effective, but also highly preferred by patients because it mixes easily and has no taste. It is a potent tool to assist metabolic and digestive health.
How much fiber do you need? Research shows that boosting fiber intake above the amount typically found in a healthy diet is more beneficial for metabolic health, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Getting 50 to 60 grams of fiber per day from a combination of foods and supplemental fiber is helpful to support weight loss efforts and improve health.
Originally published 1/9/09
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