We at Health and Life took a corporate visit to the local Quik-E Mart and used our company credit card to purchase a pack of Trident Wintergreen Gum, along with a banana, hoping accounting won’t notice (we’re pretty sure they don’t read the blog).
The question we had to answer. Is Trident chewing gum – and gum in general – safe?
We wanted answers and it seemed the only way we could get them was by obtaining the product in question, no matter the cost. Once procured, we got to work. We went through all the ingredients and ran them through some medical databases.
We do not believe that there is the risk of synergy among the ingredients; that if one is safe by itself, it won’t be toxic in combination with another safe ingredient.
We also read some research papers on the safety and use of chewing gum in general.
Here are our conclusions:
Let’s start with the positives.
First, it’s important to note that chewing gum has been proposed by fairly reputable sources as a way to reduce cavities in children. This, of course, only applies to gum that doesn’t have sugar in the form of sucrose.
Chewing gum increases salivary flow that is typically high in bicarbonates. This makes your saliva more basic, the opposite of acidic, and can harm bacteria. Additionally, the saliva induced by chewing gum may be supersaturated with important minerals, again if sucrose free.
Chewing gum may also improve your memory. Some studies have shown that people who memorize a list of words while chewing gum and are asked to remember it (again while chewing gum) do so better. That said, there are studies that show no benefit for memory.
Now the possible issues.
The Trident chewing gum we looked at contains a variety of ingredients. Our analysis is that it is most likely safe at typical levels but at much higher levels may cause gastrointestional issues. Let’s go through each of them and see what problems there may be.
Xylitol: this is made by the body as part of some metabolic processes. It has been shown in many studies to not be carcinogenic.
Sorbitol: very similar to xylitol
Asparatame: while this sugar substitute has a bad reputation, the FDA said about it that it is “one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives” and that it is safe.
Acesulfame Potassium: not much evidence for it either way. We think it is the weakest link, while still probably being very safe, because studies have shown it is safe at concentrations less than 3% and the gum label says it is present at less than 2%.
We are in the process of obtaining the exact levels in gum.
BHT: this is a freshness preservative that has raised some concerns. It’s important to note that the studies that raise concern were at extremely high levels while it is present in gum at levels of parts per million or parts per billion.
There have been reports of people who experienced diarrhea and other digestive issues because of high consumption of chewing gum along with other foods containing artificial sugars.
Studies in dogs have shown that xylitol can cause gastrointestinal issues and morphological changes.
Our analysis is that you should be fine if you consume less than 10 sticks of gum a day as those levels are well within target ranges. That said, if you chew gum and experience stomach or digestive issues, it might make sense to cut back.
Remember, we are not Doctors, although one of us is studying Toxicology.