Gellan gum is a food additive that was discovered in the 1970s. Initially used as a substitute for gelatin and agar, it is now commonly found in a variety of processed foods, including jams, candy, meats, and fortified plant milk. The purpose of this article is to explore the uses, benefits, and safety of gellan gum to help you determine whether it is a suitable ingredient for consumption.

So, what exactly is gellan gum? 

It is a food additive primarily employed to bind, stabilize, or texturize processed foods. Similar to other gelling agents such as guar gum, carrageenan, agar-agar, and xanthan gum, gellan gum can be naturally derived from water lilies or produced artificially by fermenting sugar using a specific strain of bacteria. One of the key advantages of gellan gum is that it only requires small quantities to be effective and can create a clear gel that remains stable even when exposed to heat.

Furthermore, gellan gum serves as a plant-based substitute for gelatin, which is derived from animal sources such as skin, cartilage, or bone. This makes it appealing to those seeking vegetarian or vegan alternatives in their food products.

How is Gellan Gum used?

Gellan gum finds its utility in various ways. Primarily, as a gelling agent, it imparts a smooth and creamy texture to desserts and provides a jelly-like consistency to fillings in baked goods. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity of delicate treats such as creme brûlée or flaming sorbet, preventing them from melting under heat.

In addition, gellan gum is frequently employed in fortified juices and plant milk. Its function in these beverages is to stabilize supplemental nutrients, such as calcium, ensuring that they remain evenly dispersed throughout the liquid instead of settling at the bottom of the container.

Moreover, gellan gum extends its applications to the medical and pharmaceutical fields. It is utilized for tissue regeneration, providing allergy relief, dental care, bone repair, and even in the manufacturing of drugs. Its versatility allows it to contribute to various areas of healthcare and medicine.

Foods that contain gellan gum

Gellan gum is added to fortified juices and plant milk to help stabilize supplemental nutrients like calcium, keeping them mixed into the beverage rather than pooled at the bottom of the container.

Gellan gum can be found in various food products, including:

  • Beverages: Fortified plant-based milk, juices, chocolate milk, and some alcoholic drinks.
  • Confectioneries: Candy, marshmallows, fillings for baked goods, and chewing gum.
  • Dairy: Fermented milk, cream, yogurt, processed cheese, and certain unripened cheeses.
  • Fruit and vegetable products: Fruit purées, marmalades, jams, jellies, and select dried fruit and vegetables.
  • Packaged foods: Breakfast cereals, certain noodles, potato gnocchi, bread, rolls, and gluten-free or low-protein pasta.
  • Sauces and spreads: Salad dressings, ketchup, mustard, gravies, custards, and some sandwich spreads.
  • Other foods: Certain processed meats, fish roe, soups, broths, condiments, powdered sugar, and syrups.

When looking at food labels, gellan gum may be listed as gellan gum or E418. It can also be purchased separately under brand names like Gelrite or Kelcogel.

Potential benefits of gellan gum

While gellan gum is claimed to offer various health benefits, it's important to note that few of these claims are supported by strong evidence. For instance, there is limited and outdated research suggesting that gellan gum may relieve constipation by adding bulk to stool and aiding in smooth digestion. However, the results are mixed and individual variations may occur.

Some gums have been associated with weight loss, appetite control, and improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels, leading to assumptions about similar benefits for gellan gum. However, there is very limited research specifically focused on gellan gum in these areas, and existing studies do not report significant effects.

Therefore, further research is needed to establish the potential benefits of gellan gum more conclusively.