Nicotine gum for smokers trying to get rid of the habit has been around for over 50 years, but gum has recently been developed that claims to improve our health in other ways. Adrian Monti asked experts to judge a selection. We then assessed them.
Get More Vitamins Chewing Gum, Ten Pieces, £1.50, tesco.com
Claim: The maker says that “one gum contains a daily dose of 25 percent of ten vitamins,” including B vitamins (for fatigue) and vitamin C (to support the immune system), D (for strong bones and muscles) and K (to help heal wounds). Sugar free.
Expert verdict: Sophie Medlin, a dietitian at City Dietitians, London, says: ‘The vitamins will be absorbed under the tongue because there is a good blood supply, some are also dissolved in saliva and swallowed, and absorbed through our gut.
‘Incorporating vitamins such as B and C (which are water-soluble) would be just as effective from chewing gum as from a vitamin supplement.
‘But vitamins D, E and K are fat-soluble, so they must be combined with fat [via our diet] are absorbed, so that they are less well absorbed via chewing gum alone.’
Get more vitamins chewing gum
Xerostom Chewing Gum, Ten Pieces, £3.99, amazon.co.uk
Claim: This contains the sweetener xylitol, the chemical betaine and olive oil to “hydrate and rehydrate” and may increase “saliva flow by up to 200 percent,” according to a study of the ingredients cited by the maker and published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation in 2007.
Expert verdict: Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at online pharmacy Chemist Click, says: ‘Our salivary glands can be damaged by medication, treatments such as chemotherapy or as we age, which reduces saliva production.
‘As well as being uncomfortable, dry mouth can make us prone to oral infections [saliva contains good bacteria that can help tackle bad bacteria] and complicate eating and digestion, since saliva also contains enzymes that break down food.
‘It contains beneficial ingredients, including fluoride and calcium to keep teeth strong, along with vitamin E that helps with mucositis, a common side effect of treatments such as chemotherapy, which causes painful ulcers.
“But it’s the chewing action itself that causes the salivary glands to produce saliva — rather than “moisturizing” ingredients having a significant effect. This means that all the gums should help with a dry mouth.
“I recommend that customers look for flavors that last longer, such as strong mint, because that seems to help produce more saliva because our taste buds respond better to stronger flavors.”
Xerostom Chewing Gum
Elite Kick-Start Caffeine Gum, 40 Pieces, £7.99, healthspanelite.co.uk
Claim: The maker describes this as “rapid-release, energizing” chewing gum that “helps increase mental alertness.” Each piece contains 100mg of caffeine and vitamins B6 and B12 (which help the body release energy from food).
Expert verdict: ‘You can absorb caffeine through the oral mucosa with chewing gum, so this may be suitable for people who need a pick-me-up but don’t like coffee,’ says dietitian Sophie Medlin.
‘This chewing gum is useful before training or during endurance sports if you want a quick pick-me-up.
‘There’s about half a shot of espresso in each piece, so two pieces will probably have an effect on your alertness in about 15 minutes.
“But it can keep you up at night because it takes time to break down caffeine; six hours later, half the dose is still in your body, so don’t take it from mid-afternoon.
“There are not sufficient amounts of B vitamins for any significant benefit.”
Elite Kick-Start Caffeine Gum
CB12 Boost Strong Mint Chewing Gum, Ten Pieces, £5, boots.com
Claim: The maker says this contains zinc “for reducing the volatile sulfur gases that cause bad breath,” fluoride “which helps maintain tooth mineralization,” and “xylitol for inhibiting plaque growth.”
Expert verdict: Amy Lei-Plant, dentist at Together Dental in Colchester, Essex, says: ‘Poor oral hygiene can mean bacteria build up and this can cause foul-smelling gases; cause bad breath.
‘Some studies have shown that zinc compounds can reduce the risk of tooth decay and reduce halitosis’ [bad breath] by killing the bacteria in the mouth that can cause these problems. It is unclear how much zinc this gum contains; it must be more than 1 percent to be effective.
‘Most of the other ingredients in it would prevent tooth decay, which is good because that contributes to bad breath. But in general, chewing gum is a short-term solution; see a dental hygienist or dentist if you have chronic bad breath.’
CB12 Boost strong mint chewing gum
Rescue Spearmint Eraser, 25 Pieces, £4.99, ocado.com
Claim: This spearmint flavored chewing gum contains a combination of five flower oils, including cherry plum and rockrose, which are said to help relieve stress.
Expert verdict: Professor Andy Lane, a psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton, says: ‘Looking at the active ingredient in this chewing gum that claims to reduce stress, any proven evidence is weak. Effects.
‘Several studies show that chewing gum can be effective in reducing stress, mainly because of the placebo effect or as a distraction; so maybe it works for some.
‘I am not convinced that this chewing gum has specific stress-reducing properties. But it can’t hurt to give it a try.’
Saving Spearmint Gum
Sea-Band Anti-Nausea Ginger Gum, 24 Pieces, £15.26, amazon.co.uk
Sea-Band anti-nausea ginger chewing gum
Claim: This ginger-flavored gum says it can be a drug-free way to help people who suffer from motion sickness, nausea during pregnancy, or as a side effect of chemotherapy.
Expert verdict: ‘This is especially good for patients undergoing chemotherapy or pregnant women, as the ingredients do not interact with other drugs,’ says pharmacist Abbas Kanani.
‘Studies have shown that ginger is effective in reducing nausea; one theory is that oils in it increase gastric motility — how effectively food moves through the gastrointestinal tract (slow gastric motility is believed to cause nausea).
“If you don’t like the taste of ginger, chewing gum itself is a useful distraction from feeling sick. So it may be worth trying other flavors as well.
“I wouldn’t advise kids to chew gum for motion sickness as it poses a choking hazard – and be aware it contains sugar.”
Blockhead Activated Charcoal White Chewing Gum, 30 Pieces, £7, amazon.co.uk
Blockhead Activated Charcoal White Chewing Gum
Claim: This one contains activated charcoal and sodium bicarbonate, which the maker says are “known for their cleansing properties.” It also contains calcium to harden teeth and the sweetener xylitol which ‘protects your teeth from tooth decay’.
Expert verdict: ‘Some studies claim that activated charcoal can whiten teeth and bind to certain mouth bacteria and the fragrances that cause halitosis; however, the evidence for this is weak,” says dentist Amy Lei-Plant.
‘In fact, charcoal is abrasive to enamel and, if used in excess, can contribute to tooth wear.
“Teeth stain is often caused by smoking or eating and drinking with strong stains – such as red wine, coffee and curries – but it can be removed much more effectively by seeing a dental hygienist regularly to do it safely.”
Can Chewing Gum Relieve Acid Reflux?
Glee Gum Sugar Free Lemon And Lime, 12 Packs Of 16, £16.99, luckyvitamin.com
Claim: The maker’s website states that chewing gum can help with acid reflux – although this product does not have specific active ingredients to do so.
Expert verdict: Peter Whorwell, Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Gastroenterology at the University Hospital of South Manchester, says: ‘Acid reflux occurs when stomach acids travel to the throat and cause symptoms such as heartburn.
“The usual treatment is antacids, which neutralize the acid. In more severe cases, patients are prescribed proton pump inhibitors that stop the stomach from producing excess acid.
Chewing gum can help people with mild acid reflux who experience symptoms after a large meal. That’s because it increases saliva production and flushes the acid out of the esophagus.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, there were many fairly positive studies of chewing gum helping with acid reflux, but it has been forgotten as an early treatment worth trying.
‘I myself have always suffered from acid regurgitation and noticed that chewing gum helped. ‘Patients who are dependent on antacids should try chewing gum for a month to see if it helps.
“If you also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, limit yourself to one or two pieces a day, because some (like this one) contain sweeteners that can irritate sensitive guts.”
Glee Gum Sugar Free Lemon and Lime