Soluble dietary fiber from acacia gum is a prebiotic with health-promoting properties, as well as a functional ingredient that emulsifies and stabilizes food systems. Up to 25% may be added to a formulation without affecting viscosity, making it suitable for beverages and other low-viscosity applications.

A bland, light-colored powder, Fibregum from Colloides Naturels, Inc., Bridgewater, N.J., is greater than 80% soluble dietary fiber. It is made from acacia gum, the exudate of the plant, specially selected for its high fiber content, pH level and light color. The water-soluble gum is dissolved, filtered to remove insoluble material, and agglomerated or spray dried. There are several versions in the range, designed for specific functions.

Promoting Colonic Health

“It is a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of helpful bacteria in the large intestine,” says Guido Fetta, national sales manager, Colloides Naturels. A recent study conducted at the Human Nutrition Research Center, Nantes, France, supports this.

Ten healthy volunteers consumed the soluble fiber for 10 days, and then consumed a control of sugar beet sucrose for 10 days. During the exercise, the subjects ate their normal diet, but were forbidden foods containing inulin and fructooligosaccharides, as well as yogurt with bifidobacteria or lactobacilli. A significant increase in helpful bifidobacteria and lactobacilli was detected in the volunteers' stool samples after the soluble fiber was consumed.

Soluble dietary fiber has many beneficial effects on health. It may slow transit time in the small intestine. For example, by slowing digestion of glucose, blood sugar levels are held more constant. The fiber is not digested in the small intestine, but ferments in the large intestine, where it produces short chain fatty acids (SCFA); this may stimulate mucosal growth. Another effect is the lowering of pH, which is considered good for bowel health. SCFA are thought to protect against several diseases, such as diarrhea, intestinal inflammation and colon cancer.

Studies have associated soluble dietary fiber consumption with fewer cases of mortality from cardiovascular diseases or cancers. The fiber lowers total and LDL cholesterol.

Fibregum is finding uses in beverages like sports drinks, nutritional drinks and diet beverages. It adds soluble dietary fiber without affecting flavor, aroma or viscosity in these products. Another application where it is multifunctional is in nutrition bars, where it also serves to bind together the grainy particles of the bar. “It is a natural fit in yogurt because it increases the concentration of bacterial cultures,” says Fetta.

Emulsification Properties

Emulsification and stabilization are among the functional properties that the soluble fiber imparts to foods. In citrus flavor beverages, it emulsifies the oil-based flavors and keeps the particles suspended in the aqueous phase. Confections are a major category for the dietary fiber. It is used in compressed mints, and in the gel candies popular in Europe. If a candy has an oily particulate, such as a nut or chocolate center, the soluble fiber forms a film around the particle to keep the oil from migrating into the candy coating.

Usage levels vary according to the application, according to Fetta, with a gum pastille on the high end with up to 50% and beverage flavor emulsions at 12-18%. A finished beverage contains 1-2%, and a nutrition bar may contain 1-2%. Acacia gum has a long record of safe food usage. It is non-GMO and is available certified organic. Colloides Naturels Inc.