That piece of gum you pop after lunch to keep your garlic breath at bay might be the reason why you feel bloated later in the day, at least according to one study. But is chewing gum bad for you?
Researchers at Binghamton University in New York found that titanium oxide — a food common food additive for things like chewing gum — can mess with your digestive tract and keep nutrients from being absorbed properly. Even worse: The additive can also increase inflammation.
During the study, researchers found that the participants who ate titanium dioxide-laced foods for all three meals over a course of five days showed changes in the structure of their microvilli, or the surface cells of the small intestine. These changes stunted the cells’ ability to absorb fatty acids and nutrients like zinc and iron.
The intestinal lining also showed some weakening and metabolism slowed.
That aside, titanium oxide is found in a ton of foods and is recognized by the FDA as safe.
"Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time — don't worry, it won't kill you!” Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Gretchen Mahler, one of the authors of the paper, said in the study. “[B]ut we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them.”
The benefits of chewing gum
So is that it? Is chewing gum bad for you, pediod? Not so fast. While the study might be a little concerning, chewing gum does provide plenty of benefits, especially if it’s sugar-free.
The American Dental Association actually endorses certain brands of chewing gum, like Trident, with its ADA Seal. The honor is only bestowed with the ADA Seal if it’s shown scientifically that it can protect the teeth (like sugarless gum). The reason: Chewing gum after a meal can help stimulate salivary flow, helping wash away the decay-causing bacteria produced from food when we eat.
Chewing gum is also shown to help boost mood and alleviate anxiety — and combat the stress hormone cortisol.
“There is evidence that chewing increases blood flow to the brain, and this may contribute to the increase in alertness that is consistently associated with gum chewing,” Dr. Andrew Scholey, director of the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Australia’s Swinburne University, said in a 2009 study.
And you’ll eat less at lunch if you chew gum in the morning, according to another study — upwards of 67 percent fewer calories — and they didn’t eat additional calories in the afternoon or evening, either.
So, is chewing gum bad for you?
It depends on what you view as “bad.” If you’re worried about artificial sweeteners and additives, then you should probably steer clear. However, gum does have some pretty significant benefits.
The bottom line: Maybe don’t pull a Sean Spicer and chew (and swallow!) multiple packs of gum a day, but a stick or two to stamp out bad breath isn’t going to hurt you.