The Benefits of Acacia Fiber or Gum Arabic

acacia fiber powder
Acacia fiber powder. Cathy Wong

Rich in soluble fiber, acacia fiber is sourced from the sap of the Acacia Senegal tree, a plant native to parts of Africa, Pakistan, and India. Also known as gum arabic and acacia gum, acacia fiber is said to offer a number of health benefits.

When used in powder form, acacia can be stirred into water and consumed as a beverage. Some people prefer acacia to other forms of fiber because isn't gritty, doesn't thicken, and has a fairly mild taste.

The powder can also be mixed into smoothies and other beverages.

Uses

Due to its high soluble fiber content, acacia fiber is thought to help lower cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar in check, protect against diabetes, and aid in the treatment of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Soluble fiber (one of the main types of dietary fiber) dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the intestines.

In addition, acacia fiber is said to suppress appetite, reduce gut inflammation, alleviate constipation, relieve diarrhea, and support weight loss efforts (by helping you stay full for longer).

Acacia fiber is also said to be prebiotic (a non-digestible food ingredient in dietary fiber that can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines).

Benefits

Although very few studies have tested the health effects of acacia fiber, there's some evidence that it may offer certain benefits.

Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Free of substances (such as gluten and artificial sweeteners) that can be problematic for some people, acacia fiber is said to help relieve IBS symptoms. In a study published in World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012, researchers determined that yogurt enriched with acacia fiber and the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis (B.

lactis) may help keep IBS symptoms in check. After consuming the yogurt twice daily for eight weeks, participants with both constipation- and diarrhea-predominant IBS showed an improvement in IBS symptoms and bowel habit satisfaction compared to those who took a control product.

Weight Management

Preliminary research suggests that acacia fiber may help to reduce body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentage. For a study published in the Nutrition Journal, for instance, healthy women took either gum arabic or a placebo daily. At the end of the six week study period, those who had taken the gum arabic had a significant reduction in BMI and body fat percentage.

A previous study published in Appetite had found that gum arabic decreased caloric intake three hours after consumption, and increased subjective ratings of satiety.

Fecal Incontinence

A study published in Research in Nursing and Health compared the effects of three types of dietary fiber (carboxymethylcellulose, psyllium, and gum arabic) in people with fecal incontinence. All participants took one of the fiber supplements or a placebo for 32 days. At the study's end, only psyllium supplementation was found to significantly decrease the frequency of incontinence.

Quality of life ratings didn't differ among the groups.

High Cholesterol

When it comes to keeping your cholesterol in check, preliminary studies suggest that getting your fill of soluble fiber may have an impact. In a report published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, for instance, investigators analyzed the available research on acacia fiber and found that it appears to reduce cholesterol levels in rats.

Diabetes

Dietary fiber plays a role in regulating blood sugar. While there's little clinical research on acacia fiber and diabetes, preliminary research suggests that the fiber may help protect against certain diabetes-related complications.

In an animal-based study published in Kidney & Blood Pressure Research in 2012, scientists performed tests on diabetic mice and determined that treatment with acacia fiber helped lower blood pressure. Given this finding, the study's authors suggest that acacia fiber may help shield people with diabetes from diabetic nephropathy (a type of kidney damage thought to result in part from poor control of diabetes and blood pressure).

Liver Health

Animal-based research indicates that acacia fiber may help guard against liver damage caused by acetaminophen (a drug used to relieve pain). For example, a study published in Pharmacology Research found that treating mice with acacia fiber prior to administering acetaminophen helped protect their livers from the drug's toxic effects. According to the study's authors, acacia fiber may help combat liver damage by reducing oxidative stress.

Possible Side Effects

When consuming any type of fiber-rich supplement, be sure to gradually increase your intake and get enough fluids to protect against side effects commonly associated with high doses of fiber, such as gas, bloating, constipation, and cramps.

Side effects that have been reported in studies include early morning nausea, mild diarrhea, and abdominal bloating, particularly during the first week.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of high doses of acacia fiber. Keep in mind that acacia fiber shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a health condition.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, acacia powder is sold in many natural-foods stores. Typically sold in powder form, acacia fiber is also available in tablet, capsule, or gum form. It's found in food products such as breakfast cereals, grain-based bars, and baked goods. A natural emulsifier (it can mix substances that normally don't mix well together), Acacia is also used as an ingredient in soft drinks, candy, and medications.

The Bottom Line

While further research is needed to find out whether acacia can help treat various conditions, getting enough soluble fiber in your diet can promote health and protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Besides acacia, soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, nuts, apples, barley, beans, and blueberries.  A number of other natural substances are rich in soluble fiber. These include flaxseedcarobglucomannan, and psyllium.

If you're considering using acacia, talk to your healthcare provider before starting your supplement regimen.

Sources:

Babiker R, Merghani TH, Elmusharaf K, et al. Effects of Gum Arabic ingestion on body mass index and body fat percentage in healthy adult females: two-arm randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. Nutr J. 2012 Dec 15;11:111.

Bliss DZ, Savik K, Jung HJ, Whitebird R, Lowry A, Sheng X. Dietary fiber supplementation for fecal incontinence: a randomized clinical trial. Res Nurs Health. 2014 Oct;37(5):367-78.

Calame W, Thomassen F, Hull S, Viebke C, Siemensma AD. Evaluation of satiety enhancement, including compensation, by blends of gum arabic. A methodological approach. Appetite. 2011 Oct;57(2):358-64.

Min YW, Park SU, Jang YS, et al. Effect of composite yogurt enriched with acacia fiber and Bifidobacterium lactis. World J Gastroenterol. 2012 Sep 7;18(33):4563-9.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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