Chewing gum: hidden harms

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There are a variety of reasons why people chew gums; to freshen their breath, to clean their mouth and even to reduce food cravings, theoretically helping them to avoid eating unhealthy foods. However, while some research has shown that chewing gum can indeed decrease the appetite and the motivation to eat,[1] [2] it has also highlighted the fact that gum chewers' meals can actually end up being less nutritious than those chosen by non-gum-chewers.[3] One study showed, for example, that people who chewed gum were less likely to eat fruit and instead were more motivated to eat junk food.[3] This is likely due to a minty flavor in the gum making fruits and vegetables taste sour or bitter.

Regardless of the reason for gum chewing, it can have numerous ill effects on health. This is especially true for people with pre-existing jaw conditions like the painful chronic condition temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ or TMD).[4] However, even in healthy people, excessive gum chewing can aggravate the cartilage and surrounding joints in the mouth through extra wear and tear.[5] The strain placed on the jaw and surrounding muscles can also increase the incidence of chronic headaches.[6]

Chewing gum also causes you to swallow excess air,[7] which can contribute to abdominal pain and bloating seen with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).[8] Furthermore, chewing gum sends physical signals to the body indicating that food is about to be ingested, resulting in increased production of stomach acid in preparation.[9] Excess stomach acid can have a wide range of negative effects on the digestive system, including ulceration.[10] 

Sugar free chewing gums often contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose. Aspartame has been linked to numerous deleterious effects on health, including headaches, insomnia and seizures,[11] as well as changes in metabolism and weight gain.[12] Sucralose consumption can also have numerous ill effects. Animal studies showed that 12 weeks sucralose administration reduced beneficial gut bacteria, increased fecal pH, and altered the expression of enzymes involved in drug metabolism.[13]

So next time you chew gum, remember that you may be doing more to your body than just freshening your breath. Gum chewing has been linked to effects on metabolism and appetite, as well as potentially causing harm to the jaw and digestive system. Chewing gum should therefore ideally be kept to a minimum where possible.


[1] Park, E, et al. (2016) Short-term effects of chewing gum on satiety and afternoon snack intake in healthy weight and obese women. Physiol Behav. 159. 64-71.

[2] Hetherington, MM & Boyland, E. (2007) Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Appetite. 48(3). 397-401.

[3] Swoboda, C & Temple, JL. (2013) Acute and chronic effects of gum chewing on food reinforcement and energy intake. Eating Behaviours. 14(2). 149-56.

[4] Haggman-Henrikson, B, et al. (2004) Endurance during chewing in whiplash-associated disorders and TMD. J Dent Res. 82(12). 946-50

[5] Blasberg, B & Greenberg, MS. (2003) Temporomandibular disorders In Burket’s Oral Medicine. PMPH, USA

[6] Watemberg, N, et al. (2014) The influence of excessive chewing gum use on headache frequency and severity among adolescents. Pediatr Neurol. 50(1). 69-72.

[7] Silva, AC, et al. (2015) Effect of gum chewing on air swallowing, saliva swallowing and belching. Arg Gastroenterol. 52(3). 190-4.

[8] Friedman, G. (1991) Diet and the irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 20(2). 313-24.

[9] Helman, CA. (1988( Chewing gum is as effective as food in stimulating cephalic phase gastric secretion. Am J Gastroenterol. 83(6). 640-2/

[10] Hunt, RH, et al. The stomach in health and disease. Gut. 64(10). 1650-1668.

[11] Humphries, P, et al. (2008) Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. Eur J Clin Nutr. 62. 451-62. 

[12] Feijo Fde, M, et al. (2013) .Saccharin and aspartame, compared with sucrose, induce greater weight gain in adult Wistar rats, at similar total caloric intake levels. Appetite. 60(1). 203-7.

[13] Abou-Donia, MB, et al. (2008) Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health. 71(21). 1415-29.


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I was a chewing gum fan when I was a child, and I think it really turned into digestive problems for me. I had had an abdominal pain for a week, then my mum and doctor said no more gums. Sure, I wasn't happy with it, but it did the trick and pain was gonee, seems like it worked.

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The article sounds frightening, but in real life a lot of people chew gums, my friends and I consume it regularly, and we haven't experienced any consequences described in the article.

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