We Found Out What’s Really In Chewing Gum — And It’s Kinda Scary
By Gina Hamadey; Photograph by Freepik
A typical chewing gum label lists at least a dozen ingredients — plus more hiding in the vague and amorphous “gum base” and “natural and artificial flavours.” We take a closer look at what’s really inside.
A typical chewing gum package would have the following complicated ingredients – but here’s what they do.
INGREDIENTS: Sorbitol, gum base, glycerol, natural and artificial flavour, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, aspartame, mannitol, acesulfame K, soy lecithin, artificial colour, BhT (to maintain freshness), phenylalanine, acesulfame potassium, TiO2.
It’s an artificial sweetener, and most gum contains a cocktail of them (others are aspartame, mannitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, acesulfame K, and acesulfame potassium). Nearly all faux sweeteners have been linked to diarrhoea when consumed in large amounts (but you’d have to chew 15-plus sticks of sorbitol-containing gum a day, for instance, according to a study in The British Medical Journal). So don’t think kilojoule-free means have as much as you want.
This substance gives gum its chewable texture. Though manufacturers may not always reveal the exact ingredients, according to a leading supplier, gum base may include “polymers, plasticizers, softeners, texturizers, and emulsifiers.” Yum.
Dyes such as Red 40 and Yellow 6 Lake are often made from coal tar or petroleum, and some research indicates they may be carcinogens. A big price to pay for neon bubbles.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BhT) and its cousin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BhA), are waxy preservatives that have been banned in the U.K. as possible carcinogens. Eep.
Titanium dioxide is a common additive found in toothpaste, paint, sunscreen— and gum with hard white coatings. A study from Binghamton University in New York found that chronic exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide ingested from food “significantly” decreases the ability of small-intestine cells to absorb nutrients and act as a barrier to pathogens.