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Health Information

Carob

  • Locust Bean Gum

Uses

Principal Proposed Uses

Other Proposed Uses

  • Esophageal Reflux in Infants

Carob is a warm-climate tree that grows up to 50 feet in height. Its long, reddish pods contain seeds used as medicine and food. The seed consists of three different parts: the outer husk, the nutritive endosperm (analogous to the white edible portion of the coconut), and the inner seed, or germ. The endosperm is converted to locust bean gum, a thickening agent used in numerous prepared foods. The entire pod, when dried and ground, is called carob powder. Carob powder is used both as a chocolate-like flavoring and as a medicinal substance for treatment of diarrhea.

What is Carob Used for Today?

Carob is rich in insoluble fiber. Like other sources of fiber, carob has shown some promise for improving cholesterol profile. In a small (58 participants) double-blind, placebo-controlled study, use of carob powder at a dose of 15 grams daily significantly reduced levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as compared to placebo. 1

Carob also contains tannins, astringent substances found in many plants. Foods rich in tannins are often recommended for treatment of diarrhea. (Your mother may have recommended black tea when you came down with diarrhea, on the same principle.) A double-blind clinical trial of 41 infants with diarrhea found that carob powder (at a dose of 1 gram per kilogram per day) significantly speeded resolution of diarrhea as compared to placebo. 2

The portion of carob that is made into locust bean gum contains soluble fiber in the galactomannan family. Like other forms of soluble fiber, it has shown potential (though not proven) benefit for enhancing weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels . 3

Some infants have a tendency to regurgitate after eating. A small double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that use of locust bean gum as a thickening agent significantly reduced the amount and frequency of regurgitation. 4

Dosage

A typical dose of carob powder for the treatment of diarrhea or high cholesterol in adults is 15–20 grams daily. The dose is reduced proportionately by weight for treating diarrhea in children. Like other fiber sources, carob should be taken with plenty of water. Note that severe diarrhea in children or infants requires professional medical care.

Safety Issues

Carob powder and locust bean gum, as widely consumed foods, are believed to have a high degree of safety. Locust bean gum has been extensively evaluated and found noncarcinogenic and nontoxic. 5 There are no known risks in pregnant or nursing women.

Revision Information

  • 1

    Zunft HJ, Luder W, Harde A, et al. Carob pulp preparation rich in insoluble fibre lowers total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients. Eur J Nutr . 2003;42:235–42.

  • 2

    Loeb H, Vandenplas Y, Wursch P, et al. Tannin-rich carob pod for the treatment of acute-onset diarrhea. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr . 1989;8:480–5.

  • 3

    Brennan CS. Dietary fibre, glycaemic response, and diabetes. Mol Nutr Food Res . 2005;49:560–70.

  • 4

    Wenzl TG, Schneider S, Scheele F et al. Effects of thickened feeding on gastroesophageal reflux in infants: a placebo-controlled crossover study using intraluminal impedance. Pediatrics . 2003;111:e355–9.

  • 5

    Carcinogenesis bioassay of locust bean gum (CAS No. 9000-40-2) in F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed study). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser . 2003;221:1–99. [Carob (locust) bean gum. http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v16je07.htm . Accessed 6/7/05]