Check Your Labels – Guar Gum

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“The food industry is promoting the use of various gums and starches, which are convenient thickeners and stabilizers for increasing self-life, with the argument that the butyric acid produced when they are fermented by intestinal bacteria is protective. However, intestinal fermentation increases systemic and brain serotonin, and the short-chain fatty acids can produce a variety of inflammatory and cytotoxic effect. Considering the longevity and stress-resistance of germ-free animals, choosing foods (such as raw carrots or cooked bamboo shoots or cooked mushrooms) which accelerate peristalsis and speed transit through the bowel, while suppressing bacterial growth, seems like a convenient approach to increasing longevity. -Ray Peat, PhD

Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1986 Dec;183(3):299-310.
Relationship between dietary fiber and cancer: metabolic, physiologic, and cellular mechanisms.
Jacobs LR.
The relationships between fiber consumption and human cancer rates have been examined, together with an analysis of the effects of individual dietary fibers on the experimental induction of large bowel cancer. The human epidemiology indicates an inverse correlation between high fiber consumption and lower colon cancer rates. Cereal fiber sources show the most consistent negative correlation. However, human case-control studies in general fail to confirm any protective effect due to dietary fiber. Case-control studies indicate that if any source of dietary fiber is possibly antineoplastic then it is probably vegetables. These results may mean that purified fibers alone do not inhibit tumor development, whereas it is likely that some other factors present in vegetables are antineoplastic. Experiments in laboratory animals, using chemical induction of large bowel cancer, have in general shown a protective effect with supplements of poorly fermentable fibers such as wheat bran or cellulose. In contrast, a number of fermentable fiber supplements including pectin, corn bran, oat bran, undegraded carageenan, agar, psyllium, guar gum, and alfalfa have been shown to enhance tumor development. Possible mechanisms by which fibers may inhibit colon tumorigenesis include dilution and adsorption of any carcinogens and/or promoters contained within the intestinal lumen, the modulation of colonic microbial metabolic activity, and biological modification of intestinal epithelial cells. Dietary fibers not only bind carcinogens, bile acids, and other potential toxins but also essential nutrients, such as minerals, which can inhibit the carcinogenic process. Fermentation of fibers within the large bowel results in the production of short chain fatty acids, which in vivo stimulate cell proliferation, while butyrate appears to be antineoplastic in vitro. Evidence suggests that if dietary fibers stimulate cell proliferation during the stage of initiation, then this may lead to tumor enhancement. Fermentation also lowers luminal pH, which in turn modifies colonic microbial metabolic acidity, and is associated with increased epithelial cell proliferation and colon carcinogenesis. Because dietary fibers differ in their physiochemical properties it has been difficult to identify a single mechanism by which fibers modify colon carcinogenesis. Clearly, more metabolic and physiological studies are needed to fully define the mechanisms by which certain fibers inhibit while others enhance experimental colon carcinogenesis.

J Nutr. 1996 Aug;126(8):1979-91.
Dietary guar gum alters colonic microbial fermentation in azoxymethane-treated rats.
Weaver GA, Tangel C, Krause JA, Alpern HD, Jenkins PL, Parfitt MM, Stragand JJ.
To assess the effects of guar gum on colonic microbial fermentation and cancer development, azoxymethane-treated rats were fed a partially hydrolyzed guar or control diet. Anaerobic fecal incubations were conducted at 8-wk intervals, either without added substrate or with cornstarch or hydrolyzed guar as substrates. Short-chain fatty acids in colonic contents and colonic carcinoma areas were measured at 27 wk. Fecal in vitro fermentation rates were higher for guar-fed rats than for control rats [three-way ANOVA (diet, time, in vitro substrates), P = 0.002]. Fecal in vitro butyrate production was greater for guar-fed rats than for control rats after 3-11 weeks of diet treatment (three-way ANOVA, P = 0.027). Butyrate concentrations of colonic contents at 27 wk were higher in guar-fed than in control rats and higher in the cecum than in the post-cecal colon (two-way ANOVA, P = 0.0001). A regression equation predicting colonic carcinoma area (r2 = 0.279) using propionate and butyrate concentrations of the contents of the post-cecal colon showed propionate as a positive predictor (P < 0.001) and butyrate as a negative predictor (P = 0.033). Our results show that patterns of short-chain fatty acid production may affect the results of fiber-carcinogenesis experiments. Dietary addition of hydrolyzed guar is associated with fecal fermentation low in propionate and high in butyrate; short-chain fatty acid concentrations are greater proximally than distally. These results suggest that butyrate protects against colonic neoplasia, whereas propionate enhances it, and demonstrate that colonic microbiota adapt to produce more butyrate if given time and the proper substrate.

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