Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Addictive Powers of Chewing Gum

I admit that I have a strong (and not entirely unabashed) addiction to chewing gum. I go down to the convenience store in the lobby at work and buy five or six of those big packs of sugarless chewing gum at a time. And the gum does last for a while (several weeks to a month), so I'm not going overboard. But you should have seen their faces the first couple times I bought that much. They probably thought I was buying gum for my entire department. They're used to me now, though.

I normally get the itch to eat something around 1:30 or 2p, which is a bit after lunch, but before my 4p snack. So as to not add a bunch of extra calories to my daily intake, I resort to chewing gum.

A little while back I decided to google chewing gum, to see whether chewing 3-5 sticks of it a day (ok, at a time) was a good idea. And the results were mixed.

A lot of the info below was found on this page.

The Good Stuff

1. Many brands of chewing gum are given the American Dental Association's seal of approval. On a package of Extra, it says "The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs' acceptance of Extra is based on its finding that the physical action of chewing Extra sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating stimulates saliva flow, which helps to prevent cavities by reducing plaque acids and strengthening teeth." The Orbit package says the same thing.

2. Gum is a low-cal alternative to eating snacks (when it's the munchies, rather than real hunger - I found a page (which I can't find again now) on which someone says that they chew gum instead of eating lunch because lunch makes them sleepy. So gum instead of non-hunger based snacks = good. Gum instead of lunch = not so good).

3. Gum is tasty! My new favorite is the Sangria Fresca flavor from Orbit, but I also like their Mojito Mint, Sweet Mint, and Extra's Green Apple. I tend to start chewing one stick and then popping another soon after to refresh the flavor. Pretty soon I have 4-5 sticks in my mouth, but the flavor's still there because I'm still popping it. When I was little, I think I got something like 15 sticks in my mouth because I was trying to see how many I could possibly fit (the record is Richard Walker with 135 sticks chewed for 8 hours).

4. Chewing gum is supposed to increase alertness and concentration (perhaps it has something to do with being mindful, and focusing on chewing gum helps focus attention into other tasks as well?). Perhaps that why I bite my lip sometimes when I'm chewing gum - I'm focusing so much on other stuff that I forget that I'm chewing on gum and try to gnaw my lip instead...

5. Gum freshens your breath, temporarily at least.

6. Some psychologists believe that chewing gum can reduce tension and boredom, and that it can help release nervous attention and provide an outlet for frustration and irritation.

7. Chewing gum can help people quit smoking (whether it's nicotine gum or just basic gum).

The Bad Stuff

1. The artificial sweeteners in chewing gum can be very bad for you. Like sorbitol, which has been shown (in large quantities) to have a laxative effect and causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, extreme weight loss, to the point of hospitalization. Now, this only happens with 20g and higher of sorbitol (which is 15 sticks of Orbit gum). So it looks like I'm ok with the 2-4 sticks I have on most weekdays.

2. Some chewing gum uses xylitol, which has fewer health problems than sorbitol, and even has some positive effects (with osteoporosis, diabetes, dental care, and infection, for example). So this is good. However, xylitol is never the primary sweetener. Even in gums like Trident, which does use xylitol, the primary sweetener, and first on the list of ingredients, is sorbitol.

3. Chewing gum is really sticky. No duh, right? That's what makes it great for chewing, that we can chow down on the rubber for a while and it never breaks down (unless it's been sitting in the sun for a while, then it disintegrates. I don't recommend that, it's really REALLY nasty). But the problem comes when it makes contact with something non-mouth-related.
  • Hair, for instance. Hair and chewing gum don't mix. I've heard peanut butter is good for that.
  • For shoes? Stick your shoe in the freezer for several hours or overnight. This will make it brittle and easy to scrape off. This can also be used for clothing, carpets, mats, and even hair (though thank you, I don't want to stand there stuck to the freezer for a while until it manages to freeze...)
  • Once the bulk of the chewing gum has come off, take a beaten egg white and rub it onto whatever remains of the gum for a few minutes.
  • If the gum has spread out on a piece of clothing, then rub it with a mixture of salt and dishwashing liquid and another cloth.
4. Overuse of chewing muscles can make them very very tight and even, in some cases, lead to damage to the muscles and the disc in the tempero-mandibular joint.

That's all I've got for the moment. So I figure, all in all, chewing gum on occasion can be good for your teeth and help keep you concentrated, but chewing constantly, or even frequently, can lead to problems. Everything in moderation, that's the key!


Romny said...

I had to read that a few times. You buy 5 or 6 packs at a time and chew 3 sticks at a time! That's crazy.Chewing gum helped me curve my want for a cigarette. I've been 3 years smoke free!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

well, 3 sticks at a time for a start :) sometimes it's 4-5. But those 5-6 packs generally last me a couple weeks to a month...

Romny said...

I just finished my last piece. Guess it's time to go to the friendly neighborhood Wallgreens

chantix said...
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...the who cares girl... said...

Yes. I am obsessed with gum as well, and I also recently quit smoking. I have maybe 7 different packs in my purse right now. I found this entry by googling "gourmet gum"...THAT'S how obsessed I am! Well, it beats smoking.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

ooh, gourmet gum sounds awesome! ;) Have you found any?

I have cut back on my gum habit a little, but I still chew it a bit on most work days.

Anonymous said...

I am also obsessed with gum! But when reading some of the problems you have written about chewing gum it got me thinking. May I ask what proof there is of some of them. Thanks

The Lethological Gourmet said...


I haven't done extensive research about it, just some google searches. The info I found about the sugar-replacements is mostly from wikipedia, which, although it isn't always perfect as it can be changed by anyone, has been shown on average to be more accurate than Encyclepedia Britannica (because it can be changed. Source - Wikinomics).

I've included links in the original post for the pages I used, which are admittedly not scientific studies.

Anonymous said...
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