If you believe commercials, chewing gum on a regular basis makes life better. The habit can help you lose weight, keep your breath fresh, and even protect and clean your teeth.
Sounds nice enough. And because you don’t swallow chewing gum, it’s natural not to worry about what’s used to make the product. But if you look at the actual ingredients in chewing gum brands, they tell a different story…
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The toxic ingredients of chewing gum
Here’s why gum may be the most toxic product you can buy in a store that’s legally intended for internal use. It contains, in varying levels, the following disease-causing ingredients:
- Titanium dioxide: Commonly used as a whitening agent in chewing gum. Unfortunately, this potentially carcinogenic agent has been implicated in the development of certain autoimmune disorders including Crohn’s disease and asthma. Chewing gum, in fact, has the highest levels of titanium dioxide out of all foods commonly consumed by children, with manufactured sweets and candies coming in close behind.
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): This particularly toxic compound has been banned in several countries including the United Kingdom and Japan, but in the U.S. it’s commonly used as a preservative. BHT is potentially carcinogenic and has been implicated in health issues like kidney and liver damage, organ system toxicity, and even hyperactivity in children of younger ages, possibly leading to ADHD.
- Gum base: Gum manufacturers typically slap this ingredient on a label, though few people know what it means. In reality, it’s a mix of resins, plasticizers, fillers, and elastomers. Which, looked at in more detail, include polyvinyl acetate (that’s carpenter’s glue), talc (which has previous links to cancer including lung and ovarian cancer), and paraffin wax derived from petroleum. You might as well chew on tire rubber and plastic.
- Aspartame: We’ve written about the risks of artificial sweeteners before, and aspartame is no exception. It’s been linked to brain tumors and cancers, as well as diabetes, neurological disorders, and birth defects. And once aspartame is metabolized into your body it turns into wood alcohol and formaldehyde.
- Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame K): Little is known about this compound, besides the fact that it has properties similar to aspartame. It’s also believed to be a carcinogen, and animal studies have shown a correlation between different types of tumors and acesulfame potassium.
- Calcium casein peptone: Also known as calcium phosphate, this substance is a highly processed derivative of milk and is believed to be used as a whitening agent in certain brands of gum. There’s simply not enough known about this compound.
- Sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, and maltitol: These are sugar alcohols made from sugar but altered enough to legally be considered “sugar free.” None are particularly good for the body (about as good for you as sugar), and side effects include abdominal pain and diarrhea. I know this news about xylitol will surprise some of my readers, because many in the alternative health community think it’s an ideal sugar substitute. As an ingredient in gum, it apparently does help whiten teeth and prevent tooth decay. But our research indicates you should avoid it. Xylitol is known to be lethal to animals and may have negative effects on children who consume xylitol gum.
Which brings us to a question that might be on your mind: Since you don’t swallow gum, is it even worth worrying about these ingredients? In fact, swallowing is almost better than chewing on it. Then at least it would have to pass through your digestive system where your body would work to filter out some of the toxins.
Instead, thanks to continuous chewing over an extended period of time, toxic ingredients in chewing gum get absorbed through the walls of your mouth and directly into your bloodstream.
Gum causes other problems than cancer…
Besides the slew of cancer-causing ingredients, there are other reasons chewing gum is bad for your health. For starters, it causes wear-and-tear of the cartilage along your jaw joints. This cartilage acts as a shock absorber for those joints. If it’s worn out, jaw movement can become extremely painful.
Regular gum-chewing also puts pressure on the nerves that run through various muscles in your face. It takes eight different facial muscles to chew gum, and the accumulation of pressure can lead to tightness in the muscles, in turn leading to chronic headaches.
And, no, chewing gum does not help with weight loss. Studies show regular gum-chewers actually tend to be overweight, likely because the sweetness of gum leads to more sugar cravings. On top of that, fruits and vegetables can taste bitter after chewing gum.
Note that chewing gum can also damage dental fillings or braces. If you have dental fillings with mercury, chewing gum can break them down and release toxic mercury vapor into your body. And if you chew gum made with real sugar, that regular coating of sugar on your teeth can cause cavities.
The anti-cancer chew
Before I close, I feel I should tell you about an interesting twist to gum and cancer. Finnish researchers appear to be working on a special type of chewing gum that actually keeps cancer at bay. They made a gum with a compound that cleans up acetaldehyde levels in the mouth.
Acetaldehyde is a chemical that’s been linked to cancers of the mouth, stomach, and esophagus. In this particular brand of gum, there’s a chemical called cysteine that gets slowly released as you chew. Cysteine reacts with acetaldehyde so it is no longer harmful. And although research proves cysteine reduces acetaldehyde levels in the mouth, researchers have yet to prove whether this can actually reduce cancer cases.
If it works, it’ll be particularly beneficial to those who smoke and drink heavily. Doing either raises the levels of acetaldehyde in your mouth and the upper part of your digestive tract. It’s certainly not a substitute for healthy habits, and the best way to avoid cancer is not to smoke, drink heavily, or engage in any other behaviors that harm your body.
A gum like this is more likely to help those whose genes put them at higher risk, as opposed to their behaviors, such as people who suffer from the condition called achlorhydria, in which the stomach doesn’t make enough acid. A gum like this might—emphasis on might—help reduce their likelihood of developing gastric cancer.
The natural gum solution
If you simply can’t resist the urge to chew, at least go for a natural gum. Many of these are made from chicle, from a tree native to Central America. At one time, all chewing gum was made from this, but it requires a manufacturing expense few companies care to take on. However, you can buy natural gum online and at most health food stores.
Or, if you’re worried about your breath, then tote around a small bottle of organic, food-grade peppermint oil. One drop in your mouth achieves the same effect as chewing gum, but without risking your health.
Lee Euler, Publisher