Chewing gum has been suggested as a simple tool to help you reduce food cravings and eat less, ultimately helping with weight loss.
There is even some research bearing this out. However, if you’re currently looking to lose a few (or more than a few) pounds, relying on a pack of gum is not likely to be a winning strategy, as the latest research suggests it has little impact on your weight.
Chewing Gum Does Not Reduce Hunger or Food Intake
A new series of studies set out to determine whether chewing gum actually reduces your motivation to eat, your hunger and how much you end up eating.
One of the studies revealed that while those who chewed gum consumed fewer meals, they ate more at the meals they did consume. Further, their meals ended up being less nutritious than those eaten by non-gum-chewers.
The second study found that people who chewed gum were less likely to eat fruit and instead were more motivated to eat junk food like potato chips and candy. This is likely because the minty flavor in the gum makes fruits and vegetables taste bitter. Researchers concluded:
“These studies provide 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.”
Why Chewing Gum May be Bad for Your Digestion
Your body was designed to activate digestion through chewing. A carefully coordinated neurological reflex activates the production of enzymes when you move your jaw in a chewing motion.
However, chewing without eating food can be counterproductive. When you chew gum, you send your body physical signals that food is about to enter your body. The enzymes and acids that are activated when you chew gum are therefore released, but without the food they’re intended to digest.
This can cause bloating, an overproduction of stomach acid, and can compromise your ability to produce sufficient digestive secretions when you actually do eat food.
Besides this, chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance (if you chew on one side more than the other) and even TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder in your jaw, which can be a painful chronic condition.
I generally recommend avoiding gum chewing, but if you do chew gum, do so only occasionally or right before a meal when the acid and enzyme stimulation may actually be beneficial.
Even Sugar-Free Gum May Damage Your Teeth
You may think there’s no harm in chewing a piece of sugar-free gum, since there’s no sugar to damage your teeth. The sugar alcohol xylitol, which is popular in sugar-free foods, has even been found to help fight tooth decay. However, a label of “sugar-free” should not automatically be taken to mean “safe for your teeth.”
Sugar-free gum often contains acidic flavorings and preservatives that may in fact lead to dental erosion, even if it contains cavity-fighting xylitol. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth.
Artificial Sweeteners: Another Reason to Ditch Sugar-Free Gum
There are other health risks to artificial sweeteners commonly used in sugar-free gum as well. Aspartame, for instance, is metabolized inside your body into both wood alcohol (a poison) and formaldehyde (which is a carcinogen used as embalming fluid and is not eliminated from your body through the normal waste filtering done by your liver and kidneys). It’s been linked to birth defects, cancer, brain tumors and weight gain.
Sucralose (Splenda), another common artificial sweetener used in chewing gum, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) based on only two human studies, the longest of which lasted only four days – even though animal studies found the sweetener was associated with decreased red blood cells (a sign of anemia), male infertility, enlarged kidneys, spontaneous abortions and an increased death rate.
Further, consuming artificial sweeteners can cause distortions in your biochemistry that may actually make you gain weight. Studies looking at this issue show very clearly that artificial sweeteners may actually cause greater weight gain than sugar by stimulating your appetite, increasing carbohydrate cravings, and stimulating fat storage.