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Gum arabic is widely used as a food additive, but there is no regulatory or scientific consensus on its caloric value. It is a complex polysaccharide that is mainly indigestible to humans and animals and is not degraded in the intestine but fermented in the colon under the influence of microorganisms. Despite a series of animal studies, no human data are available that quantify the energy available from gum arabic. Estimates in the animal literature range from 0 to 4 kcal/g. After accounting for energy losses in volatile and gaseous fermentation products, the upper limit for rats was set at 2 kcal/g. The situation in humans is markedly different, the number of such products is greatly reduced and a different period of adaptation is required before gum arabic is attacked by colonic bacteria. Due to the lack of an agreed scientific allocation, the US FDA insists on specifying 4 kcal/g in nutrition labels, while in Europe no value is specified for soluble dietary fibers such as gum arabic. The comment concluded that, based on current scientific knowledge, only arbitrary values ​​could be used for regulatory purposes.

Gum arabic is the gum that exudes from certain trees, such as the Senegalese acacia tree. It is a source of water-soluble dietary fiber.

Gum arabic tends to make people feel full, so they may stop eating earlier than usual. This may lead to weight loss and lower cholesterol levels.

Gum arabic is used to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Do not confuse gum arabic with acacia, acai, or Acacia farnesiana. These are different plants with different benefits.

Food additive details

synonyms

  • Acacia gum
  • Gum Arabic
  • Senegal Acacia
  • Acacia seyal

Functional class

  • filler
  • carrier
  • emulsifier
  • polish
  • Stabilizer
  • thickener

feature

Solubility:

1 g soluble in 2 ml water; insoluble in ethanol

Element:

Following the guidance for the identification of chewing gum ingredients, the following substances were used as reference standards: arabinose, galactose, mannose, rhamnose, galacturonic acid, glucuronic acid, and xylose. Should contain arabinose, galactose, rhamnose and glucuronic acid. No other spots corresponding to mannose, xylose, and galacturonic acid should be present.

Optical activity

Gum from Senegal: The aqueous solution is left-handed. Gum from A. seyal: The aqueous solution is right-handed. Use a 200 mm test tube to test a solution of 10 g of sample (dry basis) in 100 ml of water (if necessary, filter paper No. 42 or 0.8 Micron filter).

Loss on drying

No more than 15% for granular material (105°, 5 h) and no more than 10% for spray-dried material (105°, 4 h). Unground samples should be ground into powder to pass a No. 40 sieve and mixed thoroughly before weighing

It has been used to make bandages for Egyptian mummies since 2650 BC, and today the most "critical" application of this exudate is as an emulsifier in soft drinks.

Among other categories, the additive is best known as a sugar-free coating for chewing gum, but there are also newer applications such as its use as a natural fiber. Many companies are looking for organic vegetable products, and gum arabic is a great option.

In addition to soft drinks and chewing gum, gum arabic production could play other roles in arid countries, such as improving soil fertility, reducing desertification and helping to tackle food waste.

Reversing soil degradation and desertification

Acacia tree production can benefit the environment in a variety of ways, especially in areas where climate change is causing prolonged drought, or where uncontrolled farming and overgrazing have degraded soil.

The ingredient is derived from a specific species of acacia tree found in Africa's "gum belt", which stretches from Senegal to Eritrea. It is also produced in arid and semi-arid areas south of the Sahara.

In these areas, desertification is a growing concern. However, acacia trees can capture nitrogen, helping to nourish the soil and restore some of its lost fertility. Plantations also act as windbreaks, preventing further erosion.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognized the potential of the acacia tree to contribute to the sustainability of climate change impacts when it launched the Acacia Operations Programme.

The pilot project aims to develop and cultivate acacia tree production in chewing gum-producing countries such as Chad, Senegal and Sudan. The long-term goal is to provide support for food security, poverty alleviation, and soil degradation control in these areas.

After drying and grading, the acacia gum is shipped to the Senegalese port city of Dakar .

tree sustainability

Gum arabic is produced through a process called tapping. This involves cutting the outer layer of the branches at certain times of the year.

Knocking occurs when a tree begins to lose leaves. This means when the tree is stressed. The process takes place during October and November and lasts about a month. This should not be done at any time of year, only when the dry winds start to blow and the leaves fall.

If "all conditions are met" - meaning the plantation benefited from a "very good rainy season" earlier in the year - acacia gum will seep from the trees 15 days after tapping. The tree does this to prevent further water loss.

You can [harvest gum] up to five times a year, from mid-December to early May. The gum is then dried and sent to a factory for processing.

Tapping the branches rather than the trunk will also help ensure longer life. If you do this on the trunk, you will kill the tree". It is best to cut off the branches.

In addition, workers rotate the sections of bark they remove to give the trees time to regenerate before the next tapping season.

The end of a tree’s life is also part of the sustainability agenda. Trees can be harvested 25 to 35 years after they have grown for at least five and up to seven years. It was either used for charcoal, construction, or furniture.

food waste

Gum arabic also has the potential to solve the food waste problem by extending the shelf life of bread.

Two types of acacia gum, these ingredients are added to sandwich breads and gluten-free breads in concentrations of 1%, 3% and 6%.

The findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal LWT – Food Science and Technology , show that adding 1% to 3% of gum arabic can lead to an increase in softness of up to 25%. The shelf life of bread is usually only a few days, and its short-term storage has been improved by 50%.

Gum arabic helps retain water and extends the shelf life of bread, suggesting the additive is particularly suitable for bakery operators in arid climates.

After drying and grading, the acacia gum is shipped to the Senegalese port city of Dakar .

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