Modified gum arabic may boost heart health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Blood pressure, Kidney

The modified gum arabic product 'SuperGum' may reduce blood pressure, even in people with normal levels, according to a new study from the UK and Japan.

A daily dose of 25 grams of the gum for eight to 12 weeks reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of 5.6 mmHg, according to findings published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids​.

“This study has shown a significant beneficial effect of dietary supplementation with SuperGum on blood pressure in both normal individuals and patients with impaired renal function resultant from diabetes mellitus,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Aled Phillips from Cardiff University in the UK.

“The data therefore further support the ‘dietary fibre hypothesis’ in which it was postulated over three decades ago that there is an inverse relationship between dietary fibre consumption and the incidence on a number of ‘Western’ diseases,”​ they added.

Hydrocolloids for health

A growing number of studies are looking at the potential of hydrocolloids as health ingredients. However, hydrocolloids are currently used in foods at levels is well below that needed to exert a physiological effect, with the exception of gum arabic in Slim Fast.

But beyond their functional application, Dr Esther Hunter from CPL Business Consultants told there is a lot of potential for hydrocolloids to be developed as health ingredients.

"If hydrocolloid companies do not become more proactive in their approach to the functional food market then many are in danger of simply becoming commodity suppliers; other companies will reap the higher value that can be generated in the health and nutrition sector, an area marked by growing opportunity and general awareness,"​ she said.

In the wider hydrocolloids arena, there are already examples of companies that have successfully developed the market for soluble fibre and digestive health, for example. These include Danisco with its Litesse polydextrose, Beneo-Orafti with Beneo inulin, CNI with Fibregum acacia gum, Taiyo with SunFiberGum partially hydrolysed guar gum, and National Starch with H-Maize resistant starch.

Gum arabic super for blood pressure?

The new study involved 10 normal healthy people, 23 people with early diabetic kidney problems, and 14 people with advanced diabetic problems. All the participants received a daily dose of 25 grams of the gum, mixed in 250 ml of water, and flavoured.

At the end of the study period, which ranged from 8 to 12 weeks, the overall effect was an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 5.6 mmHg (from 138.4 to 132.83 mmHg).

Normal people who were neither hypertensive nor diabetic also experienced significant reductions of 5.5 mmHg (from 129.1 to 123.6 mmHg).

“The reduction of blood pressure seen in the normotensive healthy volunteers is also likely to translate into an improved “vascular” outcome with the realisation that the relationship between blood pressure and risk of cardio/cerebrovascular disease is linear across all blood pressures,”​ wrote the researchers.

Phillips and his co-workers noted, however, that there no effects observed of the gum on kidney function in patients with diabetic nephropathy.

“It is likely therefore that the alterations in blood pressure that we have demonstrated which occurs over a relatively short time frame, will translate into marked improvement in renal and cardiac outcome,”​ they added.

Source: Food Hydrocolloids
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2009.06.020
“Acacia(sen) SUPERGUM (Gum arabic): An evaluation of potential health benefits in human subjects”
Authors: D.A. Glover, K. Ushida, A.O. Phillips, S.G. Riley

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