The Science Behind the Story
For years, starch has been the primary agent used to thicken beverages for those with dysphagia. This modified cornstarch contains an insoluble component that gels but does not solidify in liquids. When added to a food or beverage the starch crystal swells, absorbing water and building viscosity. Some starches, depending on their chemical structure, can take hours before becoming fully hydrated and the beverage ready to drink.
Xanthan gum has a different chemical structure featuring a cellulose backbone with branches containing two sugars. Like starch, xanthan gum builds viscosity over a wide range of temperatures. Unlike starch, it hydrates faster and remains more stable over time.
By making liquids and foods easier for people with dysphagia to swallow, both starch and xanthan reduce the risk of aspiration pneumonia, a potentially fatal illness caused by the inhalation of foreign material into the lungs. Compared to starch, xanthan uses less product to attain the same viscosity. Should aspiration occur, less thickening agent enters the lungs, so the patient expends less energy to clear it.
Clearly, xanthan offers distinct advantages over starch. But not all xanthan-based thickeners perform equally well. Nearly 100% of people with dysphagia have compromised immune systems. And 95% of seniors overall take one or more medications every day. Many medications and nutrients are positively charged, while xanthan powder carries a negative charge. Xanthan can bind to the positively-charged medications, which are then passed through the body undigested.
Dedicated to innovation in dysphagia nutrition, Thick-It® conducted years of intensive research to determine a way to support the proper absorption of nutrients and medications. Using ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to acidify the xanthan molecule, Thick-It® developed a formula that inhibits the binding of positively-charged nutrients and medications to the thickener. The result—Thick-It® Clear Advantage®, the xanthan-based thickener, with patented application, that mixes more effectively with supplements and medication, allowing increased absorption and improved bioavailability.
Learn more about the science and research behind xanthan and twice-patented Thick-It® Clear Advantage® with these white papers.