5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients That May Cause Cancer
September 14, 2013
By Dr. Mercola
You might not pay much attention to the ingredients in chewing gum because, after all, it’s not actually swallowed. But the ingredients, many of which are potentially dangerous, do enter your body, directly through the walls of your mouth.
As with the toxic ingredients in personal care products like lotion, which are absorbed directly through your skin and into your bloodstream, the ingredients in gum also get absorbed by your body quickly and directly, bypassing the digestive system that would ordinarily help to filter some of the toxins away.
For these reasons, if you’re a gum chewer, it’s very important to look at what’s in your favorite brand, and as a recent investigation by The Health Wyze Report showed,1 what you find may put a bad taste in your mouth…
These 5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients Are Linked to Cancer and More
If your gum is sugar-free, there’s a good chance it contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Aspartame 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, cancers, brain tumors and weight gain.
2. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
BHT is so toxic it’s already been banned in many other countries. In the US, it’s often used as a preservative in chewing gum and other processed foods. BHT has been linked to organ system toxicity, including kidney and liver damage, hyperactivity in children and may be carcinogenic.
3. Calcium Casein Peptone (Calcium Phosphate)
Found primarily in Trident gum, it’s thought this ingredient may be used as a whitening agent or texturizer. As a highly processed milk derivative, little is known about its long-term ingestion, although casein was previously linked to baby formula poisonings in China.
4. Gum Base
It’s quite a mystery what “gum base” is actually made out of, but the investigators found it’s usually a blend of elastomers, resins, plasticizers and fillers. Most manufacturers do not reveal more specifics than this. After all, why would they want you to know that you’re potentially chewing on petroleum-derived paraffin wax, polyvinyl acetate (carpenter’s glue) and talc, which is linked to cancer.
5. Titanium Dioxide
Titanium dioxide is often used as a whitening agent in chewing gum, but it’s been linked to autoimmune disorders, asthma, and Crohn’s disease and is potentially carcinogenic. One study found children are highly exposed to titanium dioxide in confections, with chewing gum containing the highest levels.2
Chewing Gum for Weight Loss Is a Myth
Many people chew a stick of gum as a way to help them curb sugar cravings and eat less. But chewing gum actually has little impact on your motivation to eat, your hunger and how much you end up eating.
Research has revealed that while those who chewed gum consumed fewer meals, they ate more at the meals they did consume.3 Further, their meals ended up being less nutritious than those eaten by non-gum-chewers. It’s also been shown 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.
So if you’re thinking that chewing gum is going to help you control your weight, you’re probably being sorely misled. This is even true if you’re chewing sugar-free gum, as 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 the secretion of hormones like insulin and leptin that signal the body to increase fat storage.
Chewing Gum May Harm Your Digestion and Your Teeth
It’s often overlooked that chewing has a very primal purpose. Your body was designed to activate digestion through chewing, and 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.
Furthermore, chewing sugar-free gum is often marketed as a tool for dental health, as the sugar alcohol xylitol, which is popular in sugar-free foods and chewing gum, has 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 erosion4 even if it contains cavity-fighting xylitol. Unlike cavities, dental erosion is a process of incremental decalcification, which, over time, literally dissolves your teeth. 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. I also suggest you look for natural alternatives, such as chewing gum made from the chicle tree.
Coca-Cola Tries to Defend Aspartame Use
Chewing gum manufacturers who rely on aspartame to make sugar-free products probably love Coca-Cola’s new ad campaign, which attempts to assure consumers that its no- or low-calorie beverages containing the artificial sweetener aspartame are a safe alternative.
According to the ad, aspartame is a “safe, high-quality alternative to sugar." Clearly they’ve not reviewed the hundreds of studies on this artificial sweetener demonstrating its harmful effects... Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson issued the following statement in response to Coca-Cola’s new ad:5
“Aspartame has been found to cause cancer — leukemia, lymphoma, and other tumors—in laboratory animals, and it shouldn’t be in the food supply. We certainly want Coca-Cola to shift its product mix toward lower- and no-calorie drinks, but aspartame’s reputation isn’t worth rehabilitating with this propaganda campaign. The company would be better off phasing out its use of aspartame and accelerating its research into safer, natural sweeteners such as those extracted from the stevia plant.”
The same could be said to chewing-gum manufacturers, who continue to pass off their sugar-free products as “healthy” and even tools for weight loss. It is my belief that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could sue Coke and the other diet soda manufacturers, and potentially even chewing gum manufacturers as well, for fraudulent advertising, as there are no studies showing that the use of diet sodas or sugar-free gum causes one to lose weight. In fact, diet soda has actually been shown to cause weight gain.6 If anyone in the natural foods industry attempted to do this we would get a warning letter from these agencies in a heartbeat.
So please, do yourself and your family a huge favor, and don’t allow yourself to get swept up in Coca-Cola’s multi-million dollar ad campaigns, which are based on flawed, inaccurate, misleading, and patently false conventions of thinking about obesity and the role of aspartame.
Tell Coke They're a Joke!
Obesity is a serious public health problem in the United States, and you are being sorely misled by companies pretending to have a solution that, in reality, only worsens the problem. Chewing gum manufacturers are certainly among them, but soda companies currently have far more reach. I strongly urge you to let the Coca-Cola Company know how you feel by telling them to stop their deceptive marketing of soda products.
Join me in taking a firm stand against false advertising and let your voice be heard. If you’re on twitter, send a tweet to #CokeCEO to let the Coca-Cola Company know you are not happy with their deceptive advertising. If you’re on Facebook, please share your thoughts with them on their Facebook Page. Please also email the Coca-Cola Company to let them know how you feel!