The Truth About Chewing Gum

The Truth About Chewing Gum

One of America’s favorite passtimes and quick fixes for bad breath, chewing gum is a daily ritual for millions of americans. Ever wonder what is in the gum you are chewing or what effect it has on your health?

Quick Stats

  • More than 100,000 tons of chewing gum being consumed every year.
  • Every year over 374 trillion sticks of chewing gum are made.
  • In the next 5 years, over 1 million metric tones of chewing gum will be produced.
  • The Chewing Gum Industry is profitable market. The world’s chewing gum industry is estimated to be worth approximately US $19 billion.

Potential Health Benefits of Chewing Gum.

Chewing gum improves memory

Some suggest that chewing gum can help in improving memory and enhance cognitive powers.  Research studies show that people who chewed throughout standardized tests produced significantly better scores than people who did not. Some attribute this to an increase in the stimuli produced in the area in our brain linked to memory, the hippocampus, when you continuously move your jaw.  Chewing gum can also increases blood flow to the brain. Some studies have reported that blood flow to the brain increases by as much as 25 to 40 percent during gum chewing. Also the act of chewing speeds up our heartbeat and blood pressure just enough to wake up both left-and right hemispheres to work together.

Check out this site for one of the first studies showing actual evidence of this. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2039-chewing-gum-improves-memory.html

Chewing gum reduces symptoms of stress

Research has shown that the rhythmic motion of chewing gum has a stress-reducing effect because relaxed and satisfied feelings. Psychiatrists and psychologists believe that chewing gum can help reduce tension and help to release nervous energy. Chewing gum may provide an outlet for frustration and irritation while also increasing alertness and concentration.

For more on this http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/119826.php

Chewing gum helps to manage weight

With a low-calorie count (5 to 10 per serving), chewing gum is an inexpensive snack. According to some studies, adults who chewed gum ate 36 calories less of the snack than adults who did not chew gum. Both regular and sugar-free chewing gum helped adults to eat less by helping to curb their appetite. The physical act of gum chewing may help to reduce your cravings for high calorie snacks. Some reports show that chewing gum can burn around 11 calories per hour. (IE not to be used in place of actualy exercise)

Chewing gum improves digestion

Chewing gum helps to improve intestinal motility and also helps to increase saliva flow which promotes more frequent swallowing. This helps to prevent reflux of acid from the stomach back into the throat.

Chewing gum improves oral health

The results of scientific research demonstrate that chewing gum is good for oral health and teeth specifically. Chewing gum increases saliva, which is the most important component of oral health and powerful protector of the oral cavity. Stimulated saliva corrects a potentially harmful environment using its high concentration of buffers, minerals and antibacterial components. That helps to flush sugars, food debris and decay-causing acids out of the mouth. Chewing gum also freshens breath, whitens teeth by reducing stains and preventing stains from accumulating and reduces plaque.

Potential Health Risks of Chewing Gum

The basic make up of gum: gum base, softeners, sweeteners and flavorings. Ever wonder what makes up the sweetener and flavoring part?

The Ingredients

Sweeteners are added to gum to give it that sweet flavor. Those ingredients are usually sugar, corn syrup and even beet juice. Sugar is probably the healthiest off all sweeteners. Sweeteners such as  xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol and aspartame are also used, which have been linked to several long-term health effects that are also found in diet sodas.

Some gum ingredients are suspected to be carcinogens or have been linked to various health conditions. Sugar can cause cavities and lead to health issues such as diabetes, while aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener, has been linked to cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders. Chewing gum containing such ingredients can have dangerous and long-lasting health effects.
What about Sugar-less or Sugar-free gum?

 Sugar-free chewing gum has a number of dental benefits. Sugar free chewing gum doesn’t cause tooth decay. It demineralises tooth enamel and has an antimicrobial effect. Those who chewed sugar-free gum after eating had fewer cavities than those who did not. HOWEVER, Sugar-free gum often contains either aspartame or sorbitol, the first being  potentially toxic and increasing your hunger, and the second becoming a  dangerous laxative in large doses. For me, it’s very similar to comparing soda to diet soda.

Jaw Related Issues
One of the most common health issues related to chewing gum is muscle fatigue due to overuse of the jaw muscles. This is known to lead to chronic headaches. The action of chewing gum can also cause unnecessary wear on the cartilage in the jaw joint. Frequent gum chewers may be more likely to develop problems in the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ

My suggestion
Most health nuts will advise you to switch to something outrageous like licorice root, parsley, or chewing on a natural tooth pic. I actually believe the benefits outweigh the negatives in terms of chewing gum. I suggest looking for a gum sweetened with erythritol ( a natural sugar alcohol which has recently gained popularity because of its inclusion in a few mainstream stevia based sweeteners),stevia, or lastly xylitol at a natural foods store. Identifying products with no sugar additives or artificial sweeteners is important with all food selections and should not be any different for gum. While it is more expensive, this type of gum is more safe and less likely to cause adverse health effects. Make your pack last twice as long by chewing half a piece a day versus a whole piece.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions.
From South Bend,

The Diet Soda Hoax

The Diet Soda Hoax

“They may be free of calories, but not of consequences.”

In one study, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day had five times the increase in waist circumference over a 10-year period compared to people who didn’t drink any diet soda.

I think this topic is extremely relevant for summer time. Sodas and sodas mixed with alcohol are a summer time staple for many people. I respect people who don’t let their diet or nutrition plan interfere with their social life. I think there is something to be said about having a healthy balance between eating well, watching what you drink and socializing. Food and drink should never control your life. With that being said, there is a difference between smart choices and misinformed choices. The best example I can think of is people who buy diet soda or have  diet soda with alcohol because they are “watching their weight.”

The Science

  • Artificial sweeteners in diet soda could have the effect of triggering appetite but unlike regular sugars they don’t deliver something that will squelch the appetite
  • Sweeteners can inhibit brain cells that make you feel full. So while you may be saving calories in comparison with regular soda the artificial sweeteners will trigger your appetite and cause you to overeat in some other fashion.
  • Psychological licensing effect -If a person thinks that they are doing something that is benefiting them, they will be more prone to do something that may be potentially harmful, creating some sort of psychological balance. For instance, many people will work out for an hour or more, and then eat something unhealthy because “they earned it.” The same effect can be seen with diet sodas. People may think that diet sodas are more healthy, and they therefore drink more diet soda than they normally would. This will increase any negative effects beyond what they may expect from an infrequent consumption of cola.
  • Artificial sweeteners trigger byproducts in our gut called “short chain fatty acids” which can decrease satiety signals. (The component that relays messages to your brain to tell if you are full are interfered with as a byproduct of artificial sweeteners.)

What To Drink Instead

Honestly, the only things I ever recommend that people drink are water, black coffee, tea, unsweetened almond milk, and alcohol in moderation. If these don’t satisfy your cravings than opt for something that doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or large amounts of sugar.

Examples

1. 100 percent pure juice from fresh fruit, not from concentrate, with no additives of any kind. ( I always recommend whole fruits over juices but there can be some compromise.)

Apple Juice

2. Fresh Vegetable Juice (Again, I always recommend whole vegetables but juicing vegetables can be a great alternative.)

3.100 percent pure fruit smoothie. ( I don’t trust any commercial smoothie joints just because you can never be sure what kind of sweeteners they use but do-it-yourself smoothies make for a great snack and thirst quencher.)

Conclusion

The jury is out. Diet soda is not a healthy alternative to regular soda. Not to say you should revert back to drinking regular soda where you know the sweetness you taste is actually real sugar and sugar additives. This is by no means better than artificial sweeteners. In my mind they are equally as bad and the decision on which to choose is a coin toss.  My suggestion is to play it safe and avoid all sodas and opt for water.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin

The Truth About Nutrition Bars

The Truth About Nutrition Bars

In a recent study published by consumerlabs.com 30 nutrition bars were broken down/analyzed and over 60% of the bars failed to meet labeling claims! What is really in your “health or nutrition bar”?

Thank you to Rachel for the suggestion on this topic.

Meal replacement bars, snack bars, weight loss bars, energy bars, and protein bars are a convenient and easy way for people to get a quick snack or meal when they are on the go. The problem is that 99% of the products out there are loaded with carbs and sugars that spike insulin levels and promote fat storage. Despite the hidden ingredients and artificial additives, marketing gurus have duped consumers into thinking that these “nutrition bars” are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals when in reality this is far from the truth. The FDA claims that it currently does not have any formal guidelines for nutrition bars or the labeling on nutrition bars.

The Breakdown

“Protein Bar” is an extremely deceptive term.  Most bars contain more carbs than protein. The consumer labs study found that a typical bar is made up of

  • 49% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly from sugars)
  • 29% of calories from protein
  • 22% of calories from fat
What To Stay Away From 
Clif Bars
The concern here is the 45 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar (for comparison a snickers bar has 35 grams of carbs and 28 sugars). If you are not an endurance athlete than that amount of carbs in the form of a small snack is way to high. Ever notice how the Clif Bar rapper conveniently covers the ingredient list. Here is why. With over 30 ingredients, it is hard to decipher what exactly the bar is made up of.  Organic rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, organic evaporated can juice, organic date paste, are all fancy names for sugar that make up this so-called “nutrition bar”. While ingredients like evaporated cane juice are not as detrimental to refined sugar, it is close enough.
The Take Away– Stay away from Clif bars
Atkins Advantage Bar
With Atkins Advantage you get more bang for you buck because the lower carb and sugar levels. You also get a solid 15 grams of protein with only 210 calories. The unfortunate part is the saturated fat and ingredients. With over 50 ingredients, there are several hidden land mines such as glycerin, sucralose, cellulose, artificial flavors, which are all code names for SUGARS!
The take away- Eat only if there is no whole/unprocessed foods available like fruit or nuts.
Nature Valley Bar
I commend General Mills for their bold and forthright honesty. They are not trying to hide anything. The second ingredient is SUGAR! With high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, nature valley bars have nothing “natural” about them. High fructose corn syrup and brown sugar syrup are two ingredients that have single handily added to the obesity problems in the US.
The take away- Don’t even think about it
Power Bars
This label is also very informative as it provides the disclaimer that the FDA has no regulation over these “health bars”. With 45 carbs,  27 grams of sugar, ingredients such as evaporated cane juice, glucose syrup, and fructose, a power bar is basically a glorified candy bar. At least they have less than 30 ingredients as opposed to some of the other examples listed right?
The take away- If you are going to have something with the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar why not actually have a candy bar that tastes great? Opt for a snickers or twix instead.
Why so much sugar?

In their early development, nutrition bars were bland and primarily eaten by fitness enthusiasts. However, the bars underwent a transformation to appeal to general consumers. The bland, stiff, and protein packed bars didn’t necessarily appeal to the general population. To compensate, manufacturers made their products more flavorful by adding corn syrup, sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, colors and hydrogenated oils, which are all bad for your health.

What To Eat Instead

Kind Bar

Definitely the best nutrition bar out there. The calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and sugar content is a well-balanced mixture that can provide an adequate snack  in between meals. What I love about these bars is the simplicity of the ingredients and the natural additives. Unlike the rest of the bars, you don’t see a list of 30 ingredients with names that are too long to pronounce.

The take away– A good snack that offers a variety from eating nuts or dried fruits by themselves or with trail mix.

Conclusion

As a general guideline, the less ingredients the better. Eating something in its most natural state is always your best bet. The best example I can think of is a product like peanut butter. When buying peanut butter look for one ingredient, PEANUTS! Avoid products with ingredients other than peanuts like what you see in most commercial products.  For example, Jif regular peanut butter’s list of ingredients includes peanuts, salt, sugar, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, and diglycerides. I never encourage people to eat anything processed like nutrition bars but I understand there or some times when nothing else is available. If that is the case, choose something like a KIND Bar where there are only a few ingredients or prepare ahead and always carry around some nuts and fruits.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin