Cellulose Gum

© Rawpixel | Getty Images Ever wondered if cellulose gum is safe?

Q: I see “cellulose gum” on a lot of ingredient labels. What is it and is it safe?

A: Cellulose gum is a common ingredient in both food products, such as salad dressings, sauces, yogurts, and ice cream, and in pharmaceuticals, such as tablets and liquid medications. It’s an effective thickening agent, stabilizer, and an emulsifier. It has no calories or nutritional value and is used in very small quantities in processed foods. The gum comes from plant cell walls, often from wood pulp or cotton. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that evaluates the safety of foods, among other things, have recognized cellulose gum as a safe ingredient in foods, pharmaceuticals, and even cosmetics. While cellulose gum is generally considered safe, some research has suggested that a diet that contains a lot of processed foods, with cellulose gum as an ingredient, could upset the balance of good to bad bacteria in the intestinal tract and cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Also, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be more sensitive to the additive. 

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