Chewing gum – Benefits and Harms
Many people cannot imagine their everyday life without chewing gum. It saves you from bad breath and protects your reputation with colleagues, freshens your breath before a kiss and even soothes your nerves. But is chewing gum good or bad? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
1 Chewing gum: what’s in it?
2 How Safe Are the Ingredients in Chewing Gum?
3 What are the benefits of chewing gum?
- “Overclocks” the brain
- Relieves stress
- Promotes weight loss
- Protects teeth and fights bad breath
- Other beneficial properties
4 Side effects
- Laxative action and FODMAPs
- Dental problems and metabolic disorders
- Jaw problems
- Ulcer or gastritis
- Can chewing gum be swallowed?
- Can pregnant women chew gum?
6 Use in childhood
Chewing gum: what’s in it?
Recipes and manufacturing techniques may vary between brands, but most gum chemistry has a similar set of key ingredients:
Gum Base : An indigestible, gumy (humic) substance used to give chewing gum its characteristic properties.
Resin : Usually added to bond the gum ingredients.
Fillers (calcium carbonate or talc) form the texture of the chewing gum.
Preservatives are needed to extend the shelf life. The most popular option for gum manufacturers is bottled hydroxytoluene (BHT).
Softeners retain moisture and prevent the plastics from hardening. May include waxes such as paraffin wax or vegetable oils.
Sweeteners . The most demanded of them: cane and beet sugar, corn syrup. Sugar-free chewing gums use sugar alcohols (xylitol) or artificial sweeteners (aspartame, etc.).
Flavors : added to provide the desired flavor. There are both natural and synthetic.
The case when there is a lot of dye in the gum
Most chewing gum manufacturers keep their recipes secret. And they often refer to their unique combination of gum, resin, filler, softeners, and antioxidants “gum base” or simply “base.”
All ingredients used in the manufacture of chewing gum must be “food grade” and classified as fit for human consumption.
How Safe Are the Ingredients in Chewing Gum?
In general, chewing gum is considered safe for humans. But some brands contain controversial ingredients. True, the harmful substances in the gum are contained in quantities that are considered safe for health.
The safest is mint gum. It has fewer dyes and flavors.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is an antioxidant and preservative and is a common ingredient in processed foods. It stops food from spoiling, prevents fat oxidation and rancidity. Some animal studies indicate that it can cause cancer in high doses. At the same time, other experiments did not find such an effect. Low doses of OSH (around 0.11 mg) are still considered safe in America and Europe by the FDA and EFSA.
Titanium dioxide is a common food additive. It is used to whiten products and give them a smooth texture. Laboratory studies in rats have linked high doses of this substance to damage to the nervous system and organs. Again, the results were considered controversial and identified the need for additional scientific research to determine a safe limit for consumption.
Aspartame: Tiny enough to sweeten both gum and a cup of tea
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener with a mixed set of properties that is usually found in foods without added sugar. He is often credited with negative effects ranging from headaches to obesity and cancer. But scientists again have no evidence of this. Moreover, even a large amount of aspartame (up to the upper level of the daily intake of those who, for medical reasons, cannot consume regular sugar) is not considered harmful.
The most dangerous food additives found in modern chewing gum, and how they threaten:
E322 (soy lecithin) – food allergy;
E421 (mannitol) – digestive disorders;
E171 (titanium dioxide) – side effects are not known for certain (available studies are contradictory);
E951 (aspartame) – when stored for a long time or heated above 30 ° C, it emits poisonous formaldehyde, which leads to hormonal imbalance and harms the skin;
E950 (acesulfame K) – negatively affects the work of the heart and blood vessels, excites the nervous system, with prolonged use is addictive;
E320 (butylhydroxyanisole) – a source of “bad” cholesterol, a potential carcinogen;
E129 (fire red) is a toxic food additive that can cause cancer.
Some of the listed “esheks” were previously banned on the territory of Russia, but today the ban does not work for unknown reasons.
What are the benefits of chewing gum?
A rather impressive number of useful properties are attributed to chewing gum, and all of them are confirmed experimentally. I will not delve into who sponsored such studies. Just facts.
“Overclocks” the brain
Improves memory when performing tasks, stimulates the brain, helps concentrate, assimilate knowledge and make decisions.
People who chewed gum while on assignments performed 24% better on short-term memory tests and 36% better on long-term memory tests.
How exactly chewing gum stimulates memory is not fully understood. One theory is that chewing increases blood flow to the brain.
Research has also shown that chewing gum can reduce stress and increase alertness.
Chewing gum for two weeks reduced stress in university students under higher academic conditions.
Scientists attribute this effect to the chewing process itself, which lowers the body’s levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.
Promotes weight loss
In scientific circles, the usefulness of chewing gum in weight loss is being actively discussed. This product is sweet, but low in calories (especially when it comes to sugar-free options).
Long-term chewing is believed to reduce appetite, thereby preventing overeating.
Chewing gum in the afternoon reduces hunger and the need for snacks during the day by about 10%.
Others have shown experimentally that chewing gum has no effect on appetite or energy consumption throughout the day.
One study found that people who chewed gum were less likely to snack on healthy snacks like fresh fruit. But the participants chewed peppermint gum before eating, which changed the taste of the fruit.
A more significant dietary point is the ability of the product to increase the metabolic rate. In one experiment, chewing gum drinkers burned about 19% more calories than a control group.
But stronger evidence is needed to assess the long-term effects on weight and obesity control.
Protects teeth and fights bad breath
Chewing gum without added sugar can help protect teeth from tooth decay. The fact is that sugar feeds harmful bacteria in the oral cavity, accelerates their reproduction and leads to damage to the enamel.
Human saliva strengthens teeth as it contains phosphate and calcium. Therefore, the American Dental Association recommends chewing gum to prevent calcium as a salivary stimulant.
Which gum is best for your teeth?
Which gum is better for bad breath?
Other beneficial properties
In addition to the aforementioned advantages, chewing gum provides several other reasons for its use:
Prevents ear infections in children with xylitol in the composition.
Helps to quit smoking. This is especially true for nicotine gum.
Accelerates intestinal recovery after surgery.
Eliminates nausea. Sugar-free ginger and peppermint gum is beneficial for stomach upsets such as morning sickness or motion sickness.
Fights drowsiness and midday yawning thanks to its mint content.
Reduces heartburn when chewing after meals. Chewing gum lowers acid levels in the esophagus, thereby minimizing the symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux.
Fights depression. According to a 2011 study, chewing gum twice a day for two weeks reduced anxiety, relieved mild depression, relieved fatigue, and relieved other mental health problems.
Despite the seeming harmlessness of chewing gum, using it too often and for too long can cause unwanted side effects. What will happen if you chew gum constantly: every day and for a long time?
Laxative action and FODMAPs
The sugar alcohols used to sweeten the sugarless versions are laxative at high doses. Therefore, excessive chewing of gum can cause indigestion and diarrhea.
In addition, these sweeteners are categorized as FODMAPs (short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and can cause gas). FODMAPs are contraindicated in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Dental problems and metabolic disorders
Chewing gum sweetened with sugar is harmful to your teeth. Bacteria in the mouth actively metabolize sugar, which leads to an increase in plaque and the development of tooth decay over time.
In addition, doctors associate excess sugar in the diet with metabolic disorders leading to obesity, the development of insulin resistance and diabetes.
Constant chewing movements lead not only to the development of facial muscles, but also to problems with the jaw. For example, temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which is accompanied by pain when chewing.
Despite the fact that this condition is rare, scientists have been able to establish a direct relationship.
There is a relationship between regular gum chewing, migraines, and tension headaches in people prone to these conditions. Therefore, it is better for this category of people to limit the use of chewing gum.
A slightly unexpected side effect of gum is the formation of wrinkles around the lips. This was announced by US plastic surgeons after analyzing the condition of the skin of their patients.
From prolonged chewing, overstrain of the facial muscles occurs, which leads to deformation of the skin and loss of elasticity.
Ulcer or gastritis
Long-term chewing of gum on an empty stomach stimulates the production of large amounts of saliva in the mouth and gastric juice in the stomach. But since there is nothing to digest, hydrochloric acid destroys mucus – the natural defense of the stomach walls against self-digestion. If the situation is repeated from time to time, inflammatory processes develop in the mucous membrane. As a result – gastritis or stomach ulcer. Therefore, chewing gum on an empty stomach is contraindicated.
With periodontal disease, increased tooth mobility and the presence of dental structures (crowns, implants) in the oral cavity, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, chewing gum is prohibited.
Can chewing gum be swallowed?
Chewing gum is a soft, pliable substance designed to be chewed and sanitized, but not swallowed. This is not candy!
There is a myth that if chewing gum is accidentally swallowed, it is not digested, but remains in the gastrointestinal tract for seven years.
Chewing gum is really not digested in the human body, but it also does not stay in it for more than 1-2 days. More often, the disposal of accidentally swallowed gum is even faster due to the presence of sweeteners, many of which (such as sorbitol) have laxative properties.
It is worth worrying only if the gum was swallowed by a child, and it did not come out naturally within a couple of days.
Can pregnant women chew gum?
There is no strict prohibition on chewing gum during pregnancy. But the expectant mother should think about the composition of the next tasty treat and assess the risks.
Any brand of chewing gum contains chemicals that are potentially hazardous to the health of the fetus. In addition, it is always a strong allergen, causing confusion in the normal metabolism and hormonal background of a woman.
Therefore, with a strong craving to chew something, experts recommend looking at natural products.
Chewing gum should not be given to small children (up to the age of 5-6), no matter how enticing the advertisement is.
The main danger is the risk of suffocation. Any child is active throughout the day, is easily carried away by one or the other. And since he does not control his body as well as an adult, then choke on gum or simply swallow it – just spit.
It will be difficult for a little fidget to take away the chewing gum after exactly 10-15 minutes. And prolonged chewing, especially on an empty stomach, is fraught with early development of gastritis and stomach ulcers for the child.
The treat stimulates profuse salivation, but without the participation of chewing gum, the production of saliva becomes difficult. Because of this, children may complain of constant dry mouth, “sticking” in the corners of the lips.
Excessive chewing activity leads to inflammation of the gums, loosening of fragile teeth, and as a result – malocclusion. Correction is costly and sometimes painful for a child. Children who are addicted to chewing gum are more likely to be diagnosed with speech defects.
Chewing gum contains many chemicals that are potentially harmful to children’s health, including strong allergens. The most harmful are brightly colored plates and pastilles with a bright taste and smell.
If one chewing gum swallowed by an adult most likely does not cause serious consequences, and it leaves the body in a natural way after 1-2 days, then the child can swallow several at once. Since the gum is not digested in the gastrointestinal tract, at best it threatens digestive disorders, at worst – intestinal obstruction.
It is more difficult for children over 6 years old to ban their favorite gum, especially if their peers set a bad example. In this case, you will have to teach the child to chew the treat exclusively after eating and no more than 10 minutes, after which it is imperative to spit it out.