You probably have your favorite flavor when it comes to your gum of choice—you may go classic peppermint, spearmint, cinnamon, or bubble gum. The flavors are endless, but the pleasure of chewing gum doesn’t just stop at which flavor you pick up.
In fact, many people rely on chewing gum for weight loss. Some say it helps them control cravings. For others, it keeps them from eating otherwise calorie-laden junk.
Let’s look into the science behind these claims to determine whether chewing gum can truly help shape your face or shed unwanted weight.
What Is Chewing Gum?
Chewing gum is a soft, rubbery substance that’s designed to be chewed but not swallowed.
Recipes can vary between brands, but all chewing gums have the following basic ingredients:
- Gum: The non-digestible, rubbery base used to give gum its chewy quality.
- Resin: Usually added to strengthen gum and hold it together.
- Fillers: Fillers, such as calcium carbonate or talc, are used to give gum texture.
- Preservatives: These are added to extend shelf life. The most popular choice is an organic compound called butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).
- Softeners: These are used to retain moisture and prevent the gum from hardening. They can include waxes like paraffin or vegetable oils.
- Sweeteners: Popular ones include cane sugar, beet sugar and corn syrup. Sugar-free gums use sugar alcohols like xylitol or artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
- Flavorings: Added to give a desired flavor. They can be natural or synthetic.
Most chewing gum manufacturers keep their exact recipes a secret. They often refer to their specific combination of gum, resin, filler, softeners and antioxidants as their “gum base.”
All ingredients used in the processing of chewing gum have to be “food grade” and classified as fit for human consumption.
Common Ingredients of Chewing Gum – Are They Safe?
In general, chewing gum is considered to be safe.
However, some brands of chewing gum contain small amounts of controversial ingredients.
Even in these cases, the amounts are generally much lower than the amounts considered to cause harm.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
BHT is an antioxidant that’s added to many processed foods as a preservative. It stops food from going bad by preventing fats from becoming rancid.
Its use is controversial, as some animal studies have shown high doses can cause cancer. Yet, the results are mixed, and other studies haven’t found this effect.
Overall, there are very few human studies, so its effects on people are relatively unknown.
Nevertheless, at low doses of around 0.11 mg per pound of body weight (0.25 mg per kg), BHT is deemed generally safe by both the FDA and EFSA.
Titanium dioxide is a common food additive used to whiten products and give them a smooth texture.
Some animal studies have linked very high doses of titanium dioxide with nervous system and organ damage in rats. However, studies have provided mixed results, and its effects in humans are relatively unknown.
At the moment, the amount and type of titanium dioxide people are exposed to in food is generally considered to be safe. Nevertheless, more research is needed to determine the safe consumption limit.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener commonly found in sugar-free foods.
It’s highly controversial and has been claimed to cause a range of problems from headaches to obesity to cancer.
However, there’s currently no evidence that aspartame causes cancer or weight gain. Evidence for a connection between aspartame and metabolic syndrome or headaches is also weak or nonexistent.
Overall, consuming amounts of aspartame that are within the daily intake recommendations isn’t thought to be harmful.
Evidence That Chewing Gum Supports Weight Loss
Aids Appetite Control
Evidence showed that chewing gum can decrease hunger and cravings after a 10-hour fast the same way as drinking a calorie-rich drink (3).
In another research, some participants were asked to chew sugarless gum for at least 30 minutes after meal. Gum chewers felt fuller within 5 minutes than non-gum-chewers (4).
Furthermore, a recent review of 5 studies reveals that the process of chewing may stimulate the release of specific gut hormones, which in turn, controls hunger and food intake (5).
Another study conducted by Louisiana State University found that chewing gum may aid appetite control (6). In this study, participants were found to consume an average of 40 fewer calories. The snack cravings they felt were also fewer, and sweet consumption declined.
It Increases Your Metabolism
Chewing sugar-free gum has its advantages. Besides keeping your breath fresh, it raises your metabolic rate. Research into gum chewers has shown that chewing sugar-free gum 100 times each minute can elevate your metabolism enough to burn 70 calories per hour. This is a 20% rise in metabolism.
What is important to understand about this research is that chewing gum 100 times each minute is a pretty rapid pace of chewing. You may not be able to do this or even want to do this when you are working or socializing. So, chewing gum in and of itself is not really a practical weight loss strategy.
Additionally, in need of further research is whether or not it is actually healthy for you to chew gum constantly. When you chew gum, you swallow air and also give your stomach the indication that food is coming. This prevents your organs from getting much needed rest. Although it is not like eating food, it is still constant anticipation and unrest for your organs and jaws.
Less Calorie Intake
A study conducted by the University of Rhode Island on this subject revealed that individuals who chewed gum were more likely to consume fewer calories throughout the day (7). Although the total caloric difference came to only around 68 calories less, it is surely better than nothing. The participants in this study were also reportedly less prone to succumb to fatty treats throughout the rest of the day. Lastly, the gum-chewing subjects lost an average of 5% more calories than the ones who didn’t.
You’ll Burn Slightly More Calories
A few small studies suggest that the action of chewing gum may help burn a few additional calories.
In one small study, participants who chewed gum before and after breakfast burned around 3–5% more calories in the 3 hours following the meal, compared with those who didn’t chew gum (8).
In another study, chewing gum after a meal increased diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), which is the number of calories burned through digestion.
However, the number of extra calories burned remained very small, and simply eating the same meal more slowly was even more effective at raising DIT than chewing gum (9).
Research further suggests that chewing gum while walking may aid weight loss. It’s believed to do so by increasing your heart rate and walking speed, possibly resulting in increased calorie and fat burning.
However, at 0.4–6 additional calories burned per 15 minutes of walking, the benefits remain small. Therefore, it’s unlikely this will produce significant weight loss results without being coupled with other dietary and lifestyle changes (10, 11).
Moreover, some people claim that chewing gum may help shape your face by toning your muscles. However, no research supports this claim.
Other Health Benefits of Chewing Gum
Did you also know chewing gum has loads of other health benefits aside from weight loss?
Keeps Your Teeth Healthy
As long as it’s sugarless, chewing gum for 20 minutes after you eat can help protect your teeth by removing food debris and increasing your saliva flow (12). Your saliva strengthens your tooth enamel because it carries phosphate and calcium.
The American Dental Association actually recommends chewing gum to prevent cavities.
When you chew gum, it increases blood flow to your brain. This has a lot of positive effects including improving your memory. Research showed that short-term memory could be improved 35 percent by chewing a stick of gum (13).
In one study, people who chewed gum during tests performed 24% better in short-term memory tests and 36% better in long-term memory tests (17).
Interestingly, some studies have found that chewing gum during tasks could be a bit of a distraction at the start, but they could help you focus for longer periods (18).
Other studies have only found benefits during the first 15–20 minutes of a task (19).
How chewing gum improves memory isn’t fully understood. One theory is that this improvement is due to increased blood flow to the brain caused by chewing gum.
If you struggle to stay alert at work, chewing gum could be the simple solution you’re looking for. Evidence revealed chewing gum can fight sleepiness (20). Anything mint flavored is the most effective gum to battle midday yawns.
Following up a meal with a stick of gum can lower the acid levels in your esophagus. This may help reduce acid reflux and heartburn.
Chewing gum twice daily for two weeks reduced anxiety, depression, fatigue, and other mental illnesses in patients during a 2011 study (21).
In university students, chewing gum for two weeks decreased feelings of stress, particularly in relation to academic workload (24).
The benefits of chewing gum on memory have only been shown to last while you’re chewing the gum. However, habitual gum chewers may benefit from feeling more alert and less stressed throughout the day (27).
Sugarless mint or ginger gums of all kinds can sooth an upset stomach, whether it’s morning sickness or motion sickness. Mint and ginger are natural remedies for nausea. If you’re looking for little ways to improve your health, try chewing a stick of gum rather than reaching for a dessert. You’ll thank yourself later.
Prevents Ear Infections in Children
Some studies have suggested that gum containing xylitol could prevent middle ear infections in children (28).
Helps You Stop Smoking
Nicotine gum could help people quit smoking (29).
Helps Your Gut Recover After Surgery
Which Gum is Best for Weight Loss?
Chewing gum comes in several varieties, including sugar- and nicotine-containing, sugar-free, and caffeinated gums.
Certain varieties are commonly believed to help you lose more weight than others, even though research comparing their effects is often lacking.
Sugar-free gum is best because it is usually less than 5 calories per piece, compared to 10 calories for regular gum. In fact, diet plans like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and the American Diabetes Association consider sugar-free gum a “free food.” However, “free” doesn’t mean unlimited amounts; some artificially sweetened items can have a laxative effect if over-consumed.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that sugar-free gum often contains artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose, which are linked to poor gut health, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity (33, 34).
Nicotine, a compound typically found in cigarettes, is known to reduce appetite, causing people to eat less. In addition, nicotine may slightly raise your metabolism, causing your body to burn a few extra calories per day (35).
This may explain why people chewing nicotine gum while attempting to quit smoking often gain less weight than those chewing regular gum or not chewing any gum at all.
That said, nicotine is highly addictive and has various detrimental effects on your health. Therefore, unless you’re trying to quit smoking, chewing nicotine gum in an attempt to lose weight is not recommended.
Caffeine, a compound commonly found in coffee and tea, may also help you lose weight by increasing the number of calories and amount of fat your body burns.
One review including over 600 participants suggests that greater caffeine intakes may be linked to lower weight, fat mass, and body mass index (BMI). Other studies suggest that caffeine can help you burn more fat while both resting and exercising.
As such, weight loss supplements or gums containing caffeine may help you lose a little weight, at least initially. However, your body becomes accustomed to regular caffeine use over time, which may reduce its effects.
Moreover, caffeine gums typically contain 25–100 mg of caffeine per piece.
Thus, chewing as little as a few pieces per day may cause you to exceed the safe daily caffeine limit of 400 mg, especially if you also consume other caffeine-containing foods or drinks.
Too much caffeine can cause you to feel jittery and have difficulty sleeping. In very high doses, it may also cause nausea, vomiting, an exceedingly fast heart rate, and even seizures. Thus, excessive caffeine intakes should be avoided.
Are There Any Side Effects of Chewing Gum?
While chewing gum has some potential benefits, chewing too much gum could cause some unwanted side effects.
Sugar-Free Gums Contain Laxatives and FODMAPs
The sugar alcohols used to sweeten sugar-free gum have a laxative effect when used in large amounts.
This means that chewing lots of sugar-free gum could cause digestive distress and diarrhea (36).
Additionally, all sugar alcohols are FODMAPs, which means that they can cause digestive problems for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Sugar-Sweetened Gum Is Bad for Your Teeth and Metabolic Health
Chewing gum sweetened with sugar is really bad for your teeth.
This is because sugar is digested by the bad bacteria in your mouth, causing an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth and tooth decay over time (37).
Eating too much sugar is also associated with a number of health problems like obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes (38).
Chewing Gum Too Often Could Cause Problems With Your Jaw
It’s been suggested that constant chewing could lead to a jaw problem called temporomandibular disorder (TMD), which causes pain when you chew.
Chewing Gum Has Been Linked to Headaches
One recent review found a link between regularly chewing gum, migraines and tension headaches in people prone to these conditions (41).
More research is needed to find out if chewing gum actually causes these headaches. However, the researchers concluded that migraine sufferers might want to limit their gum chewing.
Think of gum chewing as another tool in your weight loss kit – one that can help you manage hunger and cravings, and add up to calorie savings over time. Results will not be dramatic – but then again, it’s not difficult to chomp on some gum to satisfy your yearning for sweets.
Still, make sure you don’t forgo nutritious snacks like vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grain crackers, and fruit. And don’t forget to keep your sugar alcohol in check by limiting consumption of foods and beverages containing sorbitol.