Treating Diabetes With Guar Gum

Guar gum is a water soluble fibre that is produced from the endosperm of Guar beans. It is available from speciality health and baking stores, primarily for use as a thickening agent. It is a relatively cheap item to buy with food grade guar gum costing around $3 per pound. Guar gum has some interesting properties that may be beneficial to diabetics including the ability to lower both glucose and cholesterol levels. These properties are discussed in more detail below.

Blood Glucose Levels

When taken in conjunction with food, guar gum prevents the rapid spikes in blood glucose levels that can occur when eating foods with a high glycemic index. This is because guar gum adds bulk to the food in the stomach, reducing the rate of gastric emptying into the small intestine and therefore increasing the time it takes for a meal to be digested.

Some studies have also found a link between long term guar gum consumption and reduced fasting glucose levels. A study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1992, looked at the effects of 20g of guar gum per day on 16 diabetic patients over a six week period. The researchers found that the guar gum diet lowered fasting plasma glucose levels from an average of 8.7mmol/L at the beginning of the study to 7.0mmol/L, a reduction of almost 20%.

Cholesterol Levels

A 1979 study, also published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a 10.6% reduction in total cholesterol levels in 10 patients who received 15g of guar gum per day for two weeks. Soluble fibres such as guar gum increase the faecal elimination of bile acids from the body. In response, the body increases bile acid production and because cholesterol is required to produce bile acids, levels of circulating cholesterol are reduced.

Maintaining low cholesterol levels is essential for diabetics because diabetics are naturally at a higher risk of heart disease than the general population. Diabetics should aim to keep LDL cholesterol below 70mg/dL and their HDL to LDL ratio above 0.4.

Weight Loss

Diabetics are more likely to be overweight than the general population and can benefit greatly from weight loss. Insulin sensitivity can be improved, and the risk of heart disease significantly reduced by even small reductions in body weight.

Because guar gum is indigestible, it increases the bulk of a meal without adding calories. The result is that less calories are required to produce a feeling of satiety. Fibre also slows the rate of gastric emptying meaning it takes longer before the person feels hungry again. Studies in rats suggest that guar gum may stimulate metabolism resulting in increased resting energy expenditure which also aids in weight loss.

Care should be taken when consuming high amounts of guar gum because excessive intakes of soluble fibre can cause problems in some individuals. Flatulence is a common side effect however much more serious is the risk of a gastro-intestinal tract blockage. Once consumed, guar gum tends to draw water into it, expanding in size and producing a gooey, gel like substance that can block the oesophagus or small intestine. For this reason, only a tablespoon of guar gum should be consumed at once, preferably at meal times.