Is Chewing Gum Bad For You?
Written by: Janet Early
We’ve all heard one health rumor or another about gum.
It’s filled with unhealthy sweeteners.
It causes you to swallow more air, which makes you bloat.
It’s a good way to stop cravings.
Chewing gum strengthens your teeth.
But what’s the truth? Is it okay or not okay to chew gum?
Like a State Prosecutor, let’s get to the bottom of it…
THE CASE FOR UNHEALTHY:
1. Causes Bloating And Stomach Pain
The act of chewing gum causes you to swallow excess air, which can lead to abdominal bloating, cramps and other IBS symptoms.
2. Filled With Artificial Sweeteners
Ever since calories were deemed “the enemy” in modern culture, food producers have jumped on the diet fad freight train and replaced their sugary ingredients with artificial sweeteners. But just because they have fewer calories, it does not really mean they’re better for you.
Gum runs on artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, aspartame and sucralose. These ingredients have been frequently linked to problems with brain cognition, digestion and weight gain.
In fact, FODMAPS, a nutrition plan designed to alleviate symptoms of IBS and SIBO, excludes polyols like sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol due to their potential to compromise your gut health.
3. Makes You Choose Less Healthy Food Options
Certain flavors of gum have been found to make you more likely to reach for an unhealthy snack. The University of Buffalo discovered that people who chewed mint gum before eating were less likely to choose nutrient-rich food options.
“[Our] studies [provided] no evidence that acute or chronic gum chewing reduces hunger or energy intake. In fact, chewing mint-flavored gum may deter consumption of fruit and reduce diet quality.”
4. Does NOT Help You Eat Less
The same studies conducted by the University of Buffalo found that gum chewers tend to eat fewer meals per day than non-chewers, but they eat more at each meal to compensate. Ultimately, there was no difference in calorie consumption by participants who chewed gum vs. those who did not.
While uncommon, chewing gum can lead to problems with your jaw. The practice can cause an uncomfortable popping sensation, tire out jaw muscles, or damage the cartilage surrounding the joints of the jaw.
6. Can Cause Headaches
Chronic gum chewing has been linked to headaches in adolescents. A study published in Pediatric Neurology supported the theory that excessive chewing puts extra strain on the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is the hinge joint of the jaw. A stressed TMJ has been connected to debilitating headaches in past studies.
And now, the rebuttal from the Defense Attorney…
THE CASE FOR HEALTHY:
1. Protects Tooth Enamel
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sugarless chewing gum protects tooth enamel by increasing the flow of saliva in your mouth.
In fact, the ADA states, “Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.”
2. Boosts Academic Performance
A study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine found that chewing gum gave middle-schoolers an “academic edge.” It determined that students who chewed gum while completing homework and taking exams earned higher grades than those who did not chew gum.
- Note: This study was sponsored by a gum brand*
3. Curbs Food Cravings
Another study at Louisiana State University found that people who chewed gum three times per hour following lunch ate fewer high-calorie snacks and reported more satiety and fewer cravings for sweets.
- Note: This study was sponsored by a gum brand*
4. Relieve Acid Reflux
Independent research theorizes that chewing gum can help combat the symptoms of acid reflux, because the increased saliva flow causes an antacid-like effect in the stomach.
5. Burns Calories
While minimal, it’s worth noting that, according to the Mayo Clinic, your jaw movement while chewing gum burns approximately 11 calories per hour.
6. Replaces Calorie-Dense Snacks
Some sources believe that by chewing gum, you save yourself the calories you would have eaten if you opted for a snack instead. For example, if you chew two 10-calorie sticks of gum instead of eating a 150-calorie cookie, you save yourself 130 calories.
7. Boosts Alertness
Chewing gum can potentially elevate your mood and focus levels when you’re under stress.
According to Dr. Andrew Scholey from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Australia’s Swinburne University:
“There is evidence that chewing increases blood flow to the brain and this may contribute to the increase in alertness that is consistently associated with gum chewing.”
So, what’s the verdict on gum chewing? Ultimately, the choice to chew or not to chew is up to you, as it seems as though the medical community is a hung jury on the matter.
Gum chewing won’t make or break a health regimen. If it helps you concentrate on a task or eat less dessert, great. But if you experience digestive upset or increased cravings as a result of chewing, consider cutting it out. You can also look for gum brands that are sweetened more naturally, therefore keeping you from constantly taking in potentially harmful artificial sweeteners.
If you were on this jury, what would your vote for gum chewing be: Healthy or Unhealthy? Share your thoughts below!
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Janet Early is a health enthusiast living in Los Angeles and working as a researcher for a major television company. An aspiring writer, Janet discovered her passion for wholesome nutrition and natural healing while navigating the struggles of balancing food sensitivities in a modern world. In addition to nutrition, she enjoys traveling, storytelling and embarking on daily adventures.
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