Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC, methyl cellulose, Methylcellulose) is a modified cellulose gum (Thickener is E461). CMC tends to give clear, slightly gummy, solutions. They are generally soluble in cold water and insoluble in hot. It is used to thicken dry mix beverage, syrups, ripples and ice cream, and also to stabilise ice cream, batters and sour milk. It gives moisture retention to cake mixes and water binding and thickening to icings.
In food applications:
It is used as a stabiliser, thickener, film former, suspending agent and extender. Applications include ice cream, dressings, pies, sauces, and puddings. It is available in various viscosities depending on the function it is to serve.
In non food applications:
It is sold under a variety of trade names and is used as a thickener and emulsifier in various cosmetic products, and also as a treatment of constipation. Like cellulose, it is not digestible, not toxic, and not allergenic. Some practitioners are using this for weight loss.
Treatment of constipation
When eaten, methylcellulose is not absorbed by the intestines but passes through the digestive tract undisturbed. It attracts large amounts of water into the colon, producing a softer and bulkier stool. It is used to treat constipation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and irritable bowel syndrome. It should be taken with sufficient amounts of fluid to prevent dehydration. Because it absorbs water and potentially toxic materials and increases viscosity, it can also be used to treat diarrhea.
Methylcellulose is used as a variable viscosity personal lubricant; it is the main ingredient in K-Y Jelly.
Artificial tears and saliva
Solutions containing methylcellulose or similar cellulose derivatives (see below) are used as substitute for tears or saliva if the natural production of these fluids is disturbed.
Paper and textile sizing
Methylcellulose is used as sizing in the production of papers and textiles. It protects the fibers from absorbing water or oil.
The slimy, gooey appearance of an appropriate preparation of methylcellulose with water, in addition to its non-toxic, non-allergenic, and edible properties, makes it popular for use in special effects for motion pictures and television wherever vile slimes must be simulated. In the film Ghostbusters, for example, the gooey substance that supernatural entities used to “slime” the Ghostbusters was mostly a thick water solution of methylcellulose. It is also often used in the pornographic industry to simulate semen in large quantity, in order to shoot movies related to bukkake fetish. It is preferable to food-based fake semen (e.g., condensed milk) because this last solution can often cause problems, especially when the ingredient used contains sugar. Sugar is thought to encourage yeast infection when it is injected in the vagina.
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