Another name for the locust bean gum is carob gum. It is used as a thickener. It is a common ingredient of packaged foods and is widely used for cooking and in food production.
Locust is a kind of grasshopper. So, one may wonder whether locust bean gum is vegan-friendly.
This article reviews the health benefits of locust bean gum, its downsides, and its vegan status.
What is locust bean gum?
Locust bean is harvested from the carob tree. More specifically, it is an extract of the carob tree seeds. The carob tree and the cacao plant are similar in many ways. Chocolate is made from the cacao plant.
Locust bean gum is a white powder with a fine texture. It is used in food production. It has a mild sweet taste. The taste is also mildly chocolatey. It is used in very small amounts so that it won’t change the flavor of the food.
It is important to note that the fruit of the carob tree serves as substitutes for chocolate.
Locust bean contains a lot of galactomannan polysaccharides. It is an indigestible fiber with a long molecular structure. Physically, it resembles a chain. This is why it can turn into a gel and thicken your food (1).
There are many carbs in locust bean gum. These carbs are in the form of fiber. It also contains calcium, protein, and sodium (2).
It is widely used as a food thickener, especially in organic or natural foods.
Is locust bean gum vegan?
The name might be misleading, but yes, locust bean gum is vegan. It has no link with locusts.
The seeds of the carob tree produce the gum. Another name for the carob tree is the locust tree. It was given this name because the pods resemble the locust.
Health benefits of locust bean gum
It has several health benefits. But there is a need for more human research to fully understand its benefits.
It contains plenty of fiber
Soluble fiber promotes gut health.
Your body does not absorb this fiber, and so it turns into a gel in your gut. It reduces constipation and also softens stool (3).
Also, soluble fiber is heart-healthy. It binds easily to dietary cholesterol, thus preventing its absorption into your blood (3).
But then, very little of it is used in most foods. This means that you can’t reap the fiber benefits unless you take much of it.
Relieves reflux in infants
Yes, is used in infant formulas. It relives reflux in babies. Babies who have reflux spit up frequently.
It also thickens baby formula and prevents its reflux into your baby’s esophagus.
Locust bean slows stomach emptying. Stomach emptying is also known as gastric emptying. It is the rate at which foods pass from your stomach into your intestines. Of course, this can reduce reflux and intestinal issues in children.
It lowers blood fat and sugar levels
Several studies have shown that this supplement reduces blood fat and sugar levels. This may be due to its high fiber content (8).
A particular study examined the effects of locust bean gum on 28 people. 17 of these were adults while 11 were children. Some had high cholesterol (inherited or familial) (9).
The participants were divided into two groups – one group ate food containing 8 – 30g of locust bean gum while the other group at food prepared without it (9).
The bean gum also limits the absorption of sugars and carbs in food (13).
Also, an animal study conducted way back in the 1980s discovered that this substance stabilizes blood glucose levels. It slows the movement of food through the gut. But then, this is an old study, and the results have not been reproduced in humans (14).
Generally, most of these were human studies. There is a need for more studies to have a full understanding of its benefits to humans.
Side effects and precautions
Locust bean gum has very few side effects. Without a doubt, it is safe.
If you develop allergies, then exclude locust bean foods from your diet.
Also, many premature infants experience health issues after eating formulas containing the locust bean (1).
It is important to note that this product is indigestible, so it poses very little risk to healthy adults or children. If you have fears, discuss them with your doctor.
Locust bean gum is a vegan food thickener, commonly used in many food products. It contains a lot of fiber.
When added to infant formula, it reduces reflux. It also improves blood sugar and fat levels.
But then, there is a need for more research to be done to understand the full benefits of locust bean gum.
If you want to use it as a food thickener in your kitchen, you can purchase it online. It is great for desserts, sauces, and soups.