Consumer News

5 Common Chewing Gum Ingredients That Can Cause Cancer

Woman blowing a bubble
It’s time to pop your bubble, long-term exposure to ingredients in chewing gum may lead to cancer. barbaresco

Gum has lots of uses: it can cure bad breath, curb your appetite, and help alleviate stress.Gum manufacturers often claim gum can also "strengthen teeth," "whiten teeth," and "help fight cavities." These can all lead you to reach for a pack of gum for a quick fix. However, it's time to pop your bubble gum bubble: not only are these buzz words likely to be just that — marketing mumbo jumno — but ingredients commonly found in popular brands of gum in the U.S. contain cancer-causing agents that can provide detrimental effects on your health.

The gum industry has seen a 2.7 percent decline in sales since 2010 to $3.5 billion in 2011, reports The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The industry's six year steady decline could, at least in part, be attributed to parents making more health-conscious choices for their children, keeping them away from the sugary sticks. 

But sugar may be the least of parents' concerns. In an investigation conducted by The Health Wyze Report, the publication observed the common ingredients found in several popular brands of gum. All of the ingredients in gum are absorbed by the bloodstream, with some being linked to causing cancer after increased exposure. 

Before you reach for the pack of gum, learn about the five common ingredients that can be toxic for human consumption.

Aspartame

The additive aspartame is considered to be one of the most dangerous substances used in the food industry. Used as a sugar substitute, generous amounts of aspartame are found in chewing gum and accounta for 75 percent of side effect complaints reported to the Adverse Reaction Monitoring System (ARMS) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says Dr. Mercola, physician and surgeon on his website. Aspartame was originally deemed unsafe by the public board of inquiry and an FDA panel in 1980. Although the FDA has since approved the use of the food additive for humans, the potential risks of aspartame still raise eyebrow.

Aspartame is an excitotoxin, says the Health Wyze Report. It over-excites the neurons in the brain until they burn out, which leads to a lower IQ and a series of neurological problems. Aspartame has similar properties as acesulfame potassium (K) which is believed to be a carcinogen due to studies on animals that showed acesulfame K intake is linked to the development of various types tumors. The FDA has published a list of potential side effects of the addictive, including: blindness, extreme irritability, and atypical chest pain among many others.

BHT

The preservative B.H.T. (butylated hydroxytoluene) is sold as a dietary supplement and is an ingredient commonly found in gum. Preserving a food's color, odor and flavor is one of the main purposes of the carcinogen which is commonly used in cereal and processed foods, says Examiner.com

According to the Health Wyze Report, BHT can cause organ system toxicity such as kidney and liver damage. The preservative has also been linked to hyperactivity in children. BHT has even been banned in other countries because of its dangerous, and potentially carcinogenic toxicity levels but is still deemed acceptable for use in food by the FDA. 

Calcium Casein Peptone-Calcium Phosphate

Researchers of the investigation have found this ingredient specifically in Trident gum but are unaware of its direct effects. The report suggests that it might be used as a whitening agent for the gum's "color."

However, casein, a milk extract, was previously linked to the Chinese baby formula poisonings. Dr Mercola suggests dieters who take it as a protein supplement to "throw it in the trash" because it is an inferior protein loaded with toxic residues that can lead to a series of bad side effects. Adverse effects of the protein include heart burn, indigestion, and allergies among others that can develop into serious health problems in the future. 

Gum Base

The phrase "gum base" is used by gum manufacturers as a means to generalize a list of ingredients that are not published or revealed to the public. The investigators of the report went on major gum company websites to find what exactly is gum base and what is it made from. After visiting site after site of popular brand gum companies, the general consensus of the definition of gum base by manufacturers is the following:

"Gum base is produced through a blend of raw materials which can be categorized in five classes:

  1. Elastomers, act as the key ingredient and provide elasticy
  2. Resins act as binders and softeners
  3. Plasticizers render the elastomer soft to ensure thorough blending of the gum base
  4. Fillers contribute to the overall texture
  5. Antioxidants prevent oxidation of the gum base and flavors during shelf life"

The exact ingredients of gum base are considered to be a kept secret from the public and until they are completely disclosed, it remains a mystery as to what exactly gum chewers are consuming.

Titanium Dioxide

This ingredient can be a risk factor for developing asthma and Crohn's disease. 

Titanium dioxide is used to make the hard candy coating used on many brands, such as squared-shaped Chiclet. Findings published in the American Chemical Society journal, Environmental Science & Technology, found that children may have the highest exposure to titanium dioxide in sweets that they consume. Chewing gum products such as Mentos Freshmint Gum, Eclipse Spearmint Gum, and Trident White peppermint gum contained the most titanium dioxide concentrations of the gums tested.

For a healthy alternative to regular gum, try Glee Gum, an organic product made with no artificial flavors or preservatives. 

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