Winter 2000 Issue — The Nutritional Benefits of Gum Arabic (acacia gum)

Alfred L. Wolff GmbH

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The benefit of dietary fibre for a healthy diet is widely known. Different diseases, such as constipation, coronal heart diseases and cancer just to name a few, have been correlated to an unhealthy diet, low in dietary fibre. Very often the modern diet does not contain enough dietary fibre and contains too much fat and sugars. Therefore the goal is often to enrich the "normal" diet with dietary fibres in order to improve the nutritional value, stimulate the natural digestion and thus to ensure a healthy condition.(1)

Dietary fibres are those parts of the plant cell which cannot be digested by the human enzymes. Two different groups of dietary fibres are recognised: soluble and non-soluble dietary fibre. They are distinguished by their solubility in water and show different physiological effects. Gum Arabic (Trade name: Quick-Fibre) is a soluble dietary fibre with unique properties.

Quick-Fibre contains more than 80% fibre (according to the AOAC method). Due to its low viscosity and its high solubility in water it is easy to complement foodstuff like beverages, dairy products, snack-bars, biscuits, confectionery and meat products with high amounts (up to 50%) of Quick-Fibre. It is tasteless and odourless therefore giving no off-flavour. Quick-Fibre is a plant exudate of Acacia trees. It is a 100% natural product, only physically cleaned and roller dried but not chemically modified. Soluble dietary fibres help decrease the total cholesterol and the LDL-cholesterol which has a negative influence on coronal heart diseases. 25g of Quick-Fibre per day reduce the total cholesterol significantly and have therefore a positive influence on the prevention of coronal heart diseases.(2)

Dietary fibres are not digested in the upper parts of the digestion system but the microbiological flora of the intestine contain enzymes which are able to metabolise them. Due to the digestion of the dietary fibre in the intestine, the pH decreases to a certain limit, which is accounted as positive for this organ(3) and prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria.(4) The fermentation of dietary fibres results in short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Acetate, propionate and butyrate are the main fermentation products. The SCFA are metabolised by the cells of the walls of the intestine, providinq them with an important energy source.(5) Because of its highly branched chemical structure the fermentation of Quick-Fibre is very slow and gas production is delayed in time, displaced all along the large bowel without provoking a feeling of flatulence.

Quick-Fibre has a positive influence on the microbiological flora in the caecum. It is a source of fermentable carbon for the bacteria living in the large gut, thus promoting an increased number of bacteria cells, especially Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides, in the caecum.(6) Those bacterie are also used as Probiotics. Their amount is increased on the expenses of potential pathogenic strains, such as E.coli and Salmonella, thus preventing the growth of pathogens in the gut. The higher amount of living cells also leads to a higher faecal volume and a longer transit through the caecum allowing a better digestion and absorption of other nutrient.(7) Quick-Fibre also has an influence on the growth of the Epitheliumcells of the digestive system. A 15% Quick-Fibre solution fed to rats resulted in an increase the weight of the caecal wall.(8) The increase of cells is positive, since bacteriological transtocation is avoided and the immune system of people suffering from indigestion is strengthened.

Gum Arabic has the property to bind cations, especially divalent cations as calcium and magnesium. Due to this effect the amount of calcium and magnesium in the caecum rises considerably. The result is a supply of these cations in the large bowel, where they are efficiently absorbed.(8) Furthermore Gum Arabic (Acacia Gum) enhances the absorption of sodium and potassium from the diet.(8, 9) Therefore Quick-Fibre improves the absorption of minerals from the diet.

Quick-Fibre has also an influence on the balance of nitrogen in faecal and urinary excretion. It decreases the urinary nitrogen excretion and increases the faecal nitrogen excretion. With a normal diet Gum Arabic decreases the urea production and urea recycling. All this leads to a decrease in the workload on kidneys.(10) By definition dietary fibres are basically non-caloric, since they are not hydrolysed by digestive enzymes. Nevertheless due to the fermentation in the bowel and the production of volatile fatty acids, which can be partly absorbed, there is a small intake of energy from Quick-Fibre. The caloric value of Gum Arabic is suggested to be 1.5 kcallg.(11)

In summary Quick-Fibre decreases the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol. It has a positive effect on the microbiological flora in the bowl, provides it with fermentable carbon and enables suitable conditions for probiotic bacteria by decreasing the pH due to the production of Short Chain Fatty Acids. The absorption of minerals in the bowel is increased through Quick-Fibre and the nitrogen metabolism is positively influenced by Quick-Fibre.

Contact:

Cornelia Karg
Food Scientist
Head of R&D
Alfred L. Wolff GmbH
Gr. Barcherstr. 13
D-20095 Hamburg
Germany

References:

  1. Kohimeler, L. et al: Ern;jhrungsabh;jngige Krankheiten und ihre Kosten. Schriftenreihhe des BMFG, Bd. 27, Nomos Veriag-Ges. 1993.
  2. McLean-Ross, H.A.; Eastwood, MA.; Brydon. WG.: A study of the effects of dietary gum arabic in humans, Am. J. din. Nutr. (1983), 37, 368.
  3. Jacobs, L.R.; Lupton, J.R.: Relationship between colonic luminar pH, cell proliferation and colonic carcinogenesis inl,2- Dimethjyihydrazine treated rats fed high fiber diets, cancer Res.(1986), 46, 1727.
  4. Campbell, J.M.; Fahey, Jr. G.C.; Lichtensteiger, cA.; Demichele, S.J.; Garlex, K.A.: An Enteral Formula Containing Fish Oil, Indigestible Oligosaccharides, Gum Arabic and Antioxidants Affects Plasma and Colonic Phospholipid Fatty Acid and Prostaglandin Profiles in Pigs, J. Nutr. (1997), 127, 137.
  5. Demign6, C.; R6m6S)~ C.: Schort chain fatty acids and hepatic metabolism, In: Short Chain Fatty Acids (Eds. Binder, H.J.; Cummings, J.H., Soergel), Kuwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht (NL), 1994, 272.
  6. Hill, Ml: Bacteria, dietary fibre and chronic intestinal disease, In: Dietary fibres (Edt.: Birch, G.G.; Parker, K.J.), Applied Sciences, London, 1983, 255.
  7. Bliss, D.Z.; Stein, T.P; Schleifer, CR.; Settle, R.G.: Supplementation with gum arabic fibre increases fecal nitrogen excretion and lowers serum urea nitrogen concentration in chronic renal failure patients consuming a low-protein diet, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. (1996), 63, 392.
  8. Tulung, B.; R6m6sy, C.; Demign6, C.: Specific Effects of Guar Gum or Gum Arabic on Adaptation of Cecal Digestion to High Fiber diets in the Rat, J. Nutr. (1987), 177, 1556.
  9. Wapnir, RA.; Teichberg, S.; Go, J.T; Wingertzahn, M.A.; Harper, R.G.: Oral rehydration solutions: enhanced sodium absorption with gum arabic, J. Am. Coil. Nutr. (1996), 15, 377.
  10. Assimon, S.; Stein, T.P,: Digestible Fiber Gum arabic, Nitrogen Exretion and Urea Recycling in Rats, Nutr., (1994), 10, 544.
  11. Phillips, G.O.: Acacia gum (Gum arabic): A nutritional fibre; metabolism and calorific value, Food Add. Cont. (1998), 15, 251.

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