Page updated Feb 19, 2019. First published Jul 31, 2013. 1 comment
Guar gum has always had a reputation as an effective weight-reducing agent. However, researchers tend to think otherwise. Its ability to reduce carbohydrate absorption and increase in post-meal blood sugar levels is suspected to be the mechanism which causes weight loss. Having said so, nobody knows the exact way in which guar gum causes weight-loss (or indeed whether it really does so!).
What is guar gum, how does it induce weight loss in human beings, what is the effective dose, are there any adverse effects and more importantly does it really work? – are some of the questions that need to be answered before you go buy a supplement containing guar gum.
Guar gum is a plant extract that has been shown to fight diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In recent years, it has gained reputation as a weight-reducing agent. However, researchers tend to think otherwise.
What is guar gum, how does it induce weight loss in human beings, what is the effective dose, are there any adverse effects and more importantly does it really work?
Let us investigate.
What Is Guar Gum?
Guar gum is chemically a galactomannan. It is a fibre derived from the guar plant (Cyamopsis tetragonolobus); a plant which is endogenous to India, Pakistan and the United States (Kuo, Hsu, & Chien, 2009).
Guaran is the active component of guar gum. It has been shown to be effective against seemingly unrelated conditions like heart disease, colon cancer and gall stones (Roberfroid, 1993). It also finds use as a laxative for treating constipation, for treatment of diarrhoea, atherosclerosis and diabetes.
The biological roles played by guar gum which makes it beneficial in these conditions are:
Absorbs water and swells up in the stomach and intestines giving a feeling of fullness. This apparently reduces appetite and aids in weight loss.
Reduces the absorption of carbohydrates (sugar) and fat (cholesterol) in the intestines thus helping weight loss, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In the human intestine, guar gum improves the waves of peristaltic movements; relieves constipation and reduces the incidence of diverticulitis and colonic cancer (Brodribb, 1980).
Additionally it absorbs excess water in diarrhoea and softens stools in constipation – thus treating either condition.
More importantly, of concern to us is the fact that guar gum reduces post-meal rise of sugar levels (Allain, Poon, Chan, Richmond, & Fu, 1974). This translates into flatter post-meal insulin spikes thus affecting the amount of calories stored as fat. This action also affects the diabetic disease process favourably (Samarghandian, Hadizadeh, Amin, & Davoodi, 2012).
Other health benefits of guar gum supplementation
It is a well known fact that production of excess of reactive oxygen species – (ROS) – O2- , H2O2 and HOCl – in the human body is associated with damage to multiple organ systems. These ROS play a major role in the development of cardiovascular and other metabolic diseases.
Guar gum affects most metabolic disease favourably on account of it’s:
Ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species
Ability to affects blood lipid profiles favourably (Kuo et al., 2009)
Ability to delay the formation of arterial clots (Kuo et al., 2009; Chien et al., 2004; Leopold & Loscalzo, 2005) and can prevent cardiovascular disease (Frias & Sgarbieri, 1998; Kovacs et al., 2002; Yamada et al., 2003; Kuo et al., 2009)
Ability to reduce of post-meal rise in blood glucose levels (Yokozawa, Nakagawa, Oya, Okubo, & Juneja, 2005; Nandini, Sambaiah, & Salimath, 2003)
Thus, in addition to causing weight loss, guar gum seems to find use in the prevention and treatment of other conditions as well. In fact, as we see in the following sections, the evidence in favour of other health benefits of guar gum is more convincing than that for its weight-reducing ability.
What is the Recommended Dosage of Guar Gum? And, Is It Totally Safe?
Similar to most fibres, guar gum is totally safe for consumption. Researchers have tended to use doses ranging from 7.5 to 21 g daily in clinical trials investigating weight loss (Gin, Orgerie, & Aubertin, 1989); none of these trials reported adverse effects to the use of guar gum. However, it is to be noted here, that the maximum safe dose of guar gum has not yet been defined.
Also, a word of caution – because of its ability to soak up fluid and swell, high doses of guar gum may cause oesophageal blockage and choking; intestinal blockage is also a very likely scenario. It is always, therefore, recommended to drink large amounts of water (minimum of 8 ounces per dose) to ‘flush it down’ and prevent these blockages. Other than this, other adverse effects tend to be milder.
Other side effects of guar gum use are (WebMD, 2013):
Abdominal discomfort and formation of gases (flatulence), and
Diarrhoea (loose consistency of stools)
These, as stated earlier, tend to be mild and disappear after a few days of guar gum use.
Although, guar gum is considered safe during pregnancy, not much is known about the maximum safe dose. Also, whether guar gum is secreted in mothers’ milk and is safe for consumption by a baby is not known. It is best to avoid guar gum during pregnancy and when breast-feeding your baby.
Does Research Vouch for Guar Gum as a Weight-loss Agent?
Although guar gum’s ability to fight cardiovascular diseases and diabetes has been studied extensively, not much has been done as far as their ability to cause weight loss is concerned (Kuo et al., 2009). Much of the evidence is anecdotal.
Few studies that do talk about appetite suppression and body weight reduction are quoted below:
Samarghandian et al., investigating the effects of guar gum on streptozocin-induced diabetes in rats found that guar gum not only improved glucose and lipid profile but also had a ‘general improvement’ in the loss of weight and appetite suppressant departments (Samarghandian et al., 2012).
A small human study conducted by French et al. reported that guar gum may cause profound appetite suppression especially when added to fat-rich diets (French & Read, 1994).
Other researchers, however, found no evidence that guar gum suppresses appetite in human subjects (Heini et al., 1998).
Similarly, a meta-analysis of 20 human clinical trials found that the evidence for weight reducing ability of guar gum was inconclusive (Pittler & Ernst, 2001).
What’s Our Verdict on Guar Gum?
The above sections should convince you that there is a severe lack of evidence for guar gum’s ability to cause weight loss. Although it does posses other health benefits, it fails as a fat-burner!
Therefore, going by prevalent evidence, we wouldn’t recommend guar gum for weight loss!
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Chien, C. T., Chang, W. T., Chen, H. W., Wang, T. D., Liou, S. Y., Chen, T. J. et al. (2004). Ascorbate supplement reduces oxidative stress in dyslipidemic patients undergoing apheresis. Arterioscler.Thromb.Vasc.Biol., 24, 1111-1117. Online Resource
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Heini, A., Lara-Castro, C., Schneider, H., Kirk, K., Considine, R., & Weinsier, R. (1998). Effect of hydrolyzed guar fiber on fasting and postprandial satiety and satiety hormones: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial during controlled weight loss. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 22, 906-909.
Kovacs, E. M., Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S., Saris, W. H., Melanson, K. J., Goossens, I., Geurten, P. et al. (2002). Associations between spontaneous meal initiations and blood glucose dynamics in overweight men in negative energy balance. Br.J Nutr., 87, 39-45. Online Resource
Kuo, D. C., Hsu, S. P., & Chien, C. T. (2009). Partially hydrolyzed guar gum supplement reduces high-fat diet increased blood lipids and oxidative stress and ameliorates FeCl3-induced acute arterial injury in hamsters. J Biomed.Sci., 16, 15. Online Resource
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Nandini, C. D., Sambaiah, K., & Salimath, P. V. (2003). Dietary fibres ameliorate decreased synthesis of heparan sulphate in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. J Nutr.Biochem., 14, 203-210.
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Yamada, K., Tokunaga, Y., Ikeda, A., Ohkura, K., Kaku-Ohkura, S., Mamiya, S. et al. (2003). Effect of dietary fiber on the lipid metabolism and immune function of aged Sprague-Dawley rats. Biosci.Biotechnol.Biochem., 67, 429-433.
Yokozawa, T., Nakagawa, T., Oya, T., Okubo, T., & Juneja, L. R. (2005). Green tea polyphenols and dietary fibre protect against kidney damage in rats with diabetic nephropathy. J Pharm.Pharmacol., 57, 773-780. Online Resource
About the author: Rachel Butler
Rachel likes getting to the bottom of everything that is put in front of her, which comes from her background in law. Whenever there is anything tricky to look at, Rachel is always the first port of call.
Her weekends are spent either cycling or walking, then topped off by indulging her love of chocolate as a reward for her hard work.
Disclaimer: Our reviews and investigations are based on extensive research from the information publicly available to us and consumers at the time of first publishing the post. Information is based on our personal opinion and whilst we endeavour to ensure information is up-to-date, manufacturers do from time to time change their products and future research may disagree with our findings. If you feel any of the information is inaccurate, please contact us and we will review the information provided.