Carob health benefit by Ray Sahelian, M.D.  

Carob is originally from the eastern Mediterranean region and the western part of Asia. The gum from carob seeds is called locust bean gum. The dried, powdered pods of the carob plant are used in herbal medicine.

Carob is used as a thickener, and in foods, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and paints. Carob has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years as a low-fat, low-calorie, low-caffeine alternative to chocolate. Carob itself does not contain any caffeine. However, it does contain traces of theobromine. Theobromine is related to caffeine, but it is a milder stimulant. It is the stimulant found in chocolate. Carob powder is available for sale as well as carob chips. If you have an interest in obtaining polyphenols from cocoa, consider the supplement listed below. You may also subscribe to a free newsletter.

Carob caffeine content
Q. I have at riel fibrillation and cannot have coffee and chocolate. Someone told me I should use carob in place of chocolate will carob cause heart palpitations? I have been palpitation-free on several meds for 10 months and do not want to jeopardize this. Is there caffeine or anything else in carob that would cause palpitations?
   A. Carob does not contain caffeine. However, carob has very small amounts of theobromine which are not likely to cause heart palpitations when consumed in small amounts.

Carob Research
Identification and quantification of polyphenols in carob fruits (Ceratonia siliqua L.) and derived products by HPLC-UV-ESI/MSn.
J Agric Food Chem. 2004.
The polyphenolic patterns of carob pods (Ceratonia siliqua L.) and derived products were identified and quantified using high-performance liquid chromatography-UV absorption-electrospray ion trap mass spectrometry after pressurized liquid extraction and solid-phase extraction. In carob fiber, 41 individual phenolic compounds could be identified. Carob pods contain 448 mg/kg extractable polyphenols comprising gallic acid, hydrolyzable and condensed tannins, flavonol-glycosides, and traces of isoflavonoids. Among the products investigated, carob fiber, a carob pod preparation rich in insoluble dietary fiber (total polyphenol content = 4142 mg/kg), shows the highest concentrations in flavonol-glycosides and hydrolyzable tannins, whereas roasted carob products contain the highest levels of gallic acid. The production process seems to have an important influence on the polyphenolic patterns and quantities in carob products.

Carob pulp preparation rich in insoluble fibre lowers total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients.
Eur J Nutr. 2003.
Recently, insoluble fibre from carob pulp has been found to affect blood lipids in animals in a similar manner as soluble dietary fibre. To investigate whether a carob pulp preparation containing high amounts of insoluble fibre has a beneficial effect on serum cholesterol in humans. Volunteers (n = 58) with hypercholesterolemia were recruited to participate in a randomised, double- blind, placebo-controlled and parallel arm clinical study with a 6 week intervention phase. All participants consumed daily both, bread (two servings) and a fruitbar (one serving) either with (n = 29) or without (n = 29) a total amount of 15 g/d of a carob pulp preparation (carob fibre). Serum concentrations of total, LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides were assessed at baseline and after week 4 and 6. The consumption of carob fibre reduced LDL cholesterol by 10%. The LDL:HDL cholesterol ratio was marginally decreased by 7.9 +/- 2.2 % in the carob fibre group compared to the placebo group. Carob fibre consumption also lowered triglycerides in females by 11%. Lipid lowering effects were more pronounced in females than in males. Daily consumption of food products enriched with carob fibre shows beneficial effects on human blood lipid profile and may be effective in prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

Isolation and structure elucidation of the major individual polyphenols in carob fibre.
Food Chem Toxicol. 2003.
Although it is already known that carob fibre contains several classes of polyphenolic substances, a comprehensive analysis of these has not been conducted to date. Therefore, the major polyphenolic compounds were extracted with organic solvents, and, following fractionation by normal-phase column chromatography on silicic acid, their structures were elucidated by liquid-chromatography electrospray-ionisation mass spectrometry (LC-ESI), nano-electrospray-ionisation mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), and gas-chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS). In addition, complete 1H and 13C NMR assignments were obtained for the isolated gallotannins 1,6-di-, 1,2,6-tri- and 1,2,3,6-tetra-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucose. Carob fibre was found to contain a rich variety of phenolic antioxidants. A total of 24 polyphenol compounds were identified with a yield of 3.94 g/kg (dry weight). The profile was dominated by gallic acid in various forms: free gallic acid (42% of polyphenols by weight), gallotannins (29%), and methyl gallate (1%), while simple phenols, mainly cinnamic acid, made up about 2% of the total. Flavonoids represented 26% of the polyphenols, and the major components were identified as the glycosides myricetin- and quercetin-3-O-alpha-L-rhamnoside (ca. 9% and 10%, respectively). These data indicate that carob fibre is rich in both amount and variety of phenolic antioxidant substances, and its inclusion in the diet may have chemopreventive properties.

Effect of carob bean on gastric emptying time in Thai infants.
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003.
Thickening agents, such as carob bean gum or galactomannan, have been successfully administered for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux in infants. To study the effect of carob bean gum on gastric emptying and to symptoms of regurgitation, we recruited 20 full term Thai infants (mean age=13.4+/-7 week; mean body weight=4943+/-1272gm) without pathological gastroesophageal reflux. In conclusion, carob bean gum, as a thickening agent, improves the clinical symptoms of regurgitating infants, but does not significantly alter the gastric emptying physiology. carob recipe

Antiproliferative effects of Ceratonia siliqua L. on mouse hepatocellular carcinoma cell line.
Fitoterapia. 2002.
Extracts from pods and leaves of carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) were tested for their ability to inhibit cell proliferation of mouse hepatocellular carcinoma cell line (T1). The two extracts showed a marked alteration of T1 cell proliferation in a dose-related fashion reaching the maximal effect at 1 mg/ml. Moreover, we demonstrated that leaf and pod extracts were able to induce apoptosis in T1 cell lines after 24-h treatment mediating a direct activation of the caspase 3 pathway. HPLC analysis revealed the presence of gallic acid, (-) epigallocatechin-3-gallate and (-) epicatechin-3-gallate in pod and leaf extracts, compounds well known to exert antiproliferative effects. Their concentration reached 6.28 mg/g in carob leaves and 1.36 mg/g in carob pods extract. The discovery that carob pod and leaf extracts contained antiproliferative agents could be of practical importance in the development of functional foods and/or chemopreventive drugs.

Extraction and purification from Ceratonia siliqua of compounds acting on central and peripheral benzodiazepine receptors.
Fitoterapia. 20026.
The presence of molecules with high affinity for central and peripheral benzodiazepine receptors was determined in the pod and leaves of Ceratonia siliqua (carob). The amount of the substances able to selectively bind the central benzodiazepine receptor recovered from carob pods and leaves was respectively 12 and 18 ng diazepam equivalent/g. The amount of compounds active on peripheral benzodiazepine receptor in both carob pods and leaves was higher in comparison with the central one, being 49 and 40 PK 11195 equivalent/g, respectively. In particular the compounds acting on peripheral benzodiazepine receptors were found to be extremely concentrated in the young leaves (2572 ng PK 11195 equivalent/g). The presence of substances with central benzodiazepine activity in carob extracts seems of great importance in view of the possibility to use carob extract as potential natural products with anxiolytic-sedative effects. Moreover, the prevalence in leaves of substances acting on peripheral benzodiazepine receptor suggests the possible utilisation of leave extracts as chemopreventive agents.

inquiries
Q. Please explain the difference between cacao bean and carob bean? I was told cacao aka chocolate is habit forming while carob is healthy. And I myself eat carob (1 tablespoon spread) daily to control my epileptic seizures.
   A. I am not aware of carob being helpful for seizures. Both carob and cacao have substances that are healthy and, in my opinion, it is a good idea to have small amounts of a variety of different plants and plant extracts rather than focusing on only one or a few.