Wellness Blog

What is the Danger of Chewing Gum and How to Overcome it

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

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December 6, 2016 at 7:05 AM


Pur-Gum-Aspartame-Free-healthy-compressor.jpgFor something that can be worked over and over in your mouth for hours, it is surprising how little people actually know about the ingredients in their gum. Since gum is rarely swallowed, you may pay less attention to the effects of certain ingredients on your body, but the ingredients still may be absorbed through the walls in your mouth or ingested in the saliva that you swallow. Even though you don’t ingest the gum, there are some health risks that you should be aware of.

One such example is aspartame, an artificial sweetener that is 200 times as sweet as sugar and is a common ingredient in gum. The use of aspartame increased when the public moved away from sugar-laden gums, spurred by an increased understanding of the negative effects of sugar. The large amount of calories in sugar contributes to weight gain and the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which leads to cavities and more bad breath. The gum industry responded by using more artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, despite numerous concerns with the safety of this sweetener.

The risks associated with aspartame is nothing new; the compound received multiple objections in the 1970s for health concerns, which led to a decade-long process before it was approved.  Aspartame has been linked to a bevy of disorders and diseases, but is still a common ingredient in gum, in large part due to the effectiveness of lobbyists to block bills that educate the public and restrict the use of artificial sweeteners. There have been numerous claims that aspartame can cause cancer, birth defects, brain tumors, and weight gain [1]. Aspartame is absorbed through the buccal mucosa (mucus) of the mouth, gums, and tongue. To understand the danger of aspartame, you must understand the metabolization process of the sweetener. In your body, aspartame is broken down into wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (a carcinogenic embalming fluid). If these substances interact with vulnerable areas or are not eliminated in a quick manner, studies have shown that they cause chronic diseases. This issue is compounded when aspartame, which injures tissue on a nervous level, is absorbed through the mucus layer in your mouth instead of your digestive system, making it much closer to the brain.

Not all gums are made equal; Orbit, Juicy Fruit, Trident, Extra, and Stride are all common brands found in supermarkets that use aspartame in their gum. One company that recognized the growing concern and public awareness of the dangers of aspartame, which led to the creation of an aspartame-free natural chewing gum with the apt slogan “Kick Aspartame”. Pur Gum is a sugar-free gum without aspartame that uses a natural sweetener, xylitol. Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in many plant materials, including fruits and vegetables. Commonly used to prevent tooth decay and dry mouth, xylitol is the most effective when there is a continuous concentration in the mouth, so it is the ideal match for gum.

Weird or unusual ingredients in gum is unfortunately the norm in the gum industry; for example, Trident Peppermint gum contains 15 ingredients – including the dreaded aspartame. On the other hand, Pur Gum contains only seven ingredients, including Xylitol, natural flavors, tocopherols (a vitamin E compound) and your traditional gum ingredients (gum base, gum Arabic, carnauba wax, glycerol).

Pur gum is vegan, gluten-free, GMO-free and nut-free, making it a great choice for people with dietary requirements. Gum is a sensation-filling habit that helps pass time and delivers a lasting flavor and generally comes at a low cost. Psychologically, something that only costs a few dollars tends not to affect our behavior. But, why shouldn’t you choose the healthiest option for your oral fixations, especially at the same price as a less healthy alternative?

[1] 5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients That May Cause Cancer. Mercola. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/14/chewing-gum-cancer-risk.aspx

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