I gave up chewing gum in 2006. But up until that point I had been chewing gum daily for years. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that guilty pleasure. Statista forecasts global marketing sales for 2019 to be 32.63 billion dollars.
Gleegum shared this “fun fact” : In the U.S. alone, the total amount of chewing gum sold in one year would make a stick 3.5 million miles (5.6 million km) long. That’s long enough to reach the moon and back seven times, or to circle the earth’s equator 150 times.
Why do people chew gum? There are many reasons including: stress relief, to freshen their breath, stop biting their nails, enjoyment of the flavor, or even to help reduce food cravings. So what’s the concern with this seemingly harmless product?
What’s in Your Chewing Gum?
One of the primary concerns are the ingredients. While ingredients can vary from brand to brand, here are some commonly found ingredients in chewing gum.
1. Aspartame is commonly used in sugar free gums. When aspartame is metabolized in your body it changes into both a wood alcohol and formaldehyde. Aspartame is linked to numerous health risks such as birth defects, brain tumors, cancer and weight gain.
2. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) is already banned in numerous countries. It is commonly found in processed foods and chewing gum as a preservative. BHT is linked to kidney and liver damage, organ system toxicity, lung tumors, and may be carcinogenic. It is also linked to hyperactivity in children and ADHD.
3. Calcium Casein Peptone (Calcium Phosphate) is used in gum base, as you may note on the packaging gum base ingredients aren’t individually listed. It is also found in Trident gum and may be used as a texturizer or whitener.
4. Gum Base is listed on chewing gum labels as a generic term, none of the individual ingredients are listed. Gum manufactures will not divulge the ingredients in their gum base so it’s quite a mystery what “gum base” is actually made out of.
Gleegum listed these ingredients in their gum base: natural rubber, calcium carbonate, hydrogenated soybean oil, soybean lecithin, vegetable oil, beeswax and carnauba wax. Contains natural rubber and soy. This would not be suitable for those with latex and soy sensitivities.
A visit to gumbase.com revealed that gum base is produced through a blend of raw materials which are broken down into five classes:
• Elastomers act as the key ingredient and provide elasticity
• Resins act as binders and softeners
• Plasticizers render the elastomer soft to ensure thorough blending of the gum base
• Fillers contribute to the overall texture
• Antioxidants prevent oxidation of the gum base and flavors during shelf life
Elastomers, resins, plasticizers and fillers do not sound appetizing. Sadly most manufacturers do not reveal more specifics than the term “gum base”.
Wuxi Yueda Gum Base Manufacturing lists their ingredients as : made of several food grade raw materials, SBR rubber, ester gum, paraffine wax , polyvinyl acetates ( PVAC ) , talc powder and calcium carbonate powder.
5. Titanium Dioxide this ingredient is used as a whitening agent in gum. It has also been linked to asthma, Crohn’s disease, autoimmune disorders and is a potential carcinogen. While this may be on the GRAS list (Generally Recognized as Safe) by the FDA, titanium dioxide can also have a serious impact on gut health, as shown by this 2017 study published in the Journal NanoImpact . In the study, researchers exposed small intestinal cells to a meal’s worth of nano particles over four hours (to demonstrate an acute exposure) and three meals worth over five days (to demonstrate chronic exposure). The results of chronic exposure resulted in the following:
Inflammation was triggered
The guts defense against pathogens was weakened
Nutrient absorption of key nutrients such as iron, fatty acids and zinc were blocked
Metabolism was slowed
The intestinal barrier was weakened
6. Emulsifiers– In order to maintain flavor and prevent gum from sticking to your teeth, emulsifiers are added. Emulsifiers can through off the balance of the flora in your gut.
7. Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K) has properties similar to aspartame. The Center for Science in the Public Interest , has this additive on their avoid list and has petitioned the F.D.A. for a stay of approval, due to the lack of testing done on this substance. Studies on animals have shown a correlation between acesulfame potassium and various tumors.
Kids, migraines and chewing gum
If your child or teen has frequent headaches and migraines, the culprit may be chewing gum. A small study published in Pediatric Neurology found significant improvements in 26 out of 30 participants, when chewing gum was stopped. In fact 19 of the 30 experienced complete relief after they stopped chewing gum.
Alternatives for fresher breath
Drink lemon water
Try oil pulling with coconut oil
Bring a toothbrush to work
Floss and rinse after meals