(Healthline) – Locust bean gum, also called carob gum, is a natural thickener that’s commonly added to packaged foods and has many uses in cooking and food manufacturing.
However, its name (a locust is a type of grasshopper) may cause you to wonder whether it’s vegan-friendly.
This article reviews the benefits and downsides of locust bean gum, as well as whether it’s vegan.
Origin and uses
Locust bean gum is extracted from the seeds of the carob tree. In many ways, this tropical tree is similar to the cacao plant, from which chocolate is made.
Locust bean gum is a fine white powder with many uses in food production. The gum is mildly sweet and has a subtle chocolate taste. However, it’s used in such small amounts that it does not affect the flavor of the products it’s added to.
In fact, other parts of the carob tree — mostly its fruit — are commonly used as substitutes for chocolate.
Locust bean gum is made of an indigestible fiber called galactomannan polysaccharides, which have a long, chain-like molecular structure. These polysaccharides give the gum its unique ability to turn into a gel in liquid and thicken foods (1Trusted Source).
Locust bean gum comprises mostly carbs in the form of fiber. However, it also contains some protein, calcium, and sodium (2).
It’s most commonly used as a thickener in food production, particularly in natural or organic foods that are free of highly refined ingredients.
Is it vegan?
Despite its misleading name, locust bean gum is a vegan product that has nothing to do with locusts, a type of grasshopper.
The gum comes from the seeds of the carob tree, which is also known as the locust tree, as its pods resemble the insect of the same name.
Locust bean gum is appropriate for vegan diets. In fact, it’s an excellent plant-based thickener that can help add structure and stability to vegan desserts, such as nondairy ice cream and yogurt.
Locust bean gum comes from the carob tree and is a vegan product. It comprises mostly fiber and is primarily used as a thickening agent for food.
Potential health benefits
Locust bean gum has several potential health benefits.
However, more research in humans is needed to fully understand them.
High in fiber
All of the carbs in this product come from fiber in the form of galactomannan polysaccharides. These long chains of soluble fiber allow the gum to gel and thicken in liquid (1Trusted Source, 2).
Soluble fiber is also great for your gut health.
Because this fiber is not absorbed in your body and turns into gel in your digestive tract, it helps soften stool and can reduce constipation (3Trusted Source).
In addition, soluble fiber is thought to be heart-healthy, as it can bind to dietary cholesterol, preventing it from being absorbed into your bloodstream (3Trusted Source).
However, locust bean gum is used in very small quantities in most foods, so you may not reap the benefits of soluble fiber by consuming products that contain it.
Helps with reflux in infants
Locust bean gum is also used as an additive in infant formulas for babies who experience reflux, which is characterized by frequent episodes of spitting up.
It helps thicken the formula and keep it from rising back into the esophagus after entering the stomach, which can contribute to reflux and discomfort.
It also slows gastric emptying, or how quickly foods pass from the stomach into the intestines. This can also reduce intestinal issues and reflux in babies.
Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of formula containing locust bean gum for babies who experience reflux (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
May lower blood sugar and blood fat levels
Some studies have found that taking locust bean gum supplements may help reduce blood sugar and blood fat levels. This may be due to the high amount of fiber they contain (8Trusted Source).
One study looked at the effects of locust bean gum in 17 adults and 11 children, some of whom had familial, or inherited, high cholesterol (9Trusted Source).
The group that ate foods containing 8–30 grams of locust bean gum per day for 2 weeks experienced greater improvements in cholesterol than a control group that ate no locust bean gum (9Trusted Source).
In addition, other parts of the carob plant, particularly its fruit, may improve blood fat levels by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Locust bean gum may also help decrease blood sugar levels by limiting the body’s absorption of carbs and sugars in food (13Trusted Source).
Additionally, one rat study from the 1980s found that locust bean gum stabilized blood sugar levels by slowing the transit of food through the stomach and intestines. However, the study is old, and its results have not been reproduced in humans (14Trusted Source).
Overall, much of the research on these benefits was conducted in animals and is outdated. Thus, more studies in humans are needed before the potential benefits of locust bean gum can be fully understood.
Locust bean gum is high in fiber and may help decrease blood sugar and blood fat levels. It is also used in infant formulas to help reduce reflux.
Precautions and side effects
Locust bean gum is a safe food additive with few side effects.
However, some people may be allergic to it. This allergy can take the form of asthma and breathing issues, which can be serious (15Trusted Source).
If you are allergic to locust bean gum, you should avoid it and all carob-containing foods.
Additionally, some premature infants have experienced health issues after receiving formula thickened with locust bean gum that was incorrectly mixed (1Trusted Source).
However, because this product is indigestible, it presents few risks to healthy children or adults. If you have any concerns, make sure to discuss them with your healthcare provider.
Locust bean gum is indigestible and presents few risks. Some people may be allergic to it, and some premature infants may have bad reactions to formula that contains locust bean gum if it has been mixed incorrectly.