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The Truth About Chewing Gum

According to Wikipedia, chewing gum has been around in some form since the Neolithic Period. In fact, a 6000-year-old piece of birch bark tar that was used as chewing gum was recently found in Kierikki, Finland in 2007, proving that chewing gum- or something like it- has been a favorite pastime for centuries.
But today, despite its popularity there’s still a whole lot of misinformation out there about gum. In honor of summer winding down and school starting up in the coming weeks, here are some fast facts about this fascinating product that’s almost as well-known for its dislike by teachers as it is for anything else!

Fact #1: How long does it take to digest swallowed gum?
Growing up, you may have been told not to swallow your gum because swallowed gum takes seven years to digest. Were that true, the occasional gum swallower would probably be fine, but everyone else would have some big problems. The truth is, unlike regular food, chewing gum doesn’t break down in the digestive system- so it doesn’t digest as fast as say, an apple or a piece of chicken might. But it doesn’t take seven years either. In reality, it takes about two days. But that doesn’t mean you should down an entire pack in one sitting- either. Because gum takes a little longer to digest, it can slow digestion and cause blockages- so make sure you don’t swallow too much, too often.

Fact #2: Chewing gum IS good for your teeth, sometimes.
Ask anyone two people if chewing gum is good for your teeth and you very likely could get two separate answers- yes and no. The funny thing is they’re both correct! You see, chewing gum is good for your teeth if it doesn’t contain sugar. So sugarless gum is good for your teeth, and traditional sugar-sweetened gum isn’t. A relatively new product, Xylitol-sweetened gum is not only good for your teeth because it’s sugar-free, but it also increases the flow of saliva in your mouth, and helps neutralize plaque acids that cause cavities in the process!
Fact # 3: Chewing gum can help you lose weight
There are a lot of myths surrounding gum and weight loss. Some people say it has the power to suppress the appetite, while others say it cuts cravings. The truth is, both can be true. If you have a sweet tooth you know how difficult it can sometimes be to say no to a sugary treat- but chewing gum has been shown to help reduce cravings for sweets for some people. Furthermore, a study at Louisiana State University found that participants who chewed gum ate an average of 50 calories less a day than those who didn’t, and burned about 5 percent more calories!

Fact #4: They sell bacteria gum that can help improve your oral health

While chewing sugarless or Xylitol gum may help keep your mouth clean and reduce bad bacteria, there is now a probiotic gum that contains good bacteria- bacteria that doesn’t just kill the bad guys; it eats them. That helpful bacteria improve the PH balance in your mouth, reducing your risk of everything from bad breath to cavities to gum disease.

Fact #5: Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore!

Here’s an interesting fact to chew on- in 1992, the country of Singapore banned chewing gum for all citizens unless they have a medical reason for it, such as with nicotine gum or for dental purposes as prescribed by a dentist or doctor. So, what’s the big deal with gum? Well, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong banned the treat because it became costly and time-consuming to clean off the ground in public spaces. Today if you are caught chewing gum, you can be hit with a hefty fine that ranges between $500 and $1000 for first-time offenders, and $2000 for second-timers. Think that’s bad? Persons who sell or smuggle in gum can be fined up to $100,000!
While these laws seem severe, spitting gum has become such a problem around the world that businesses have been formed to address the issue. A company in Amsterdam recently began preselling "Gum Shoes" made of recycled bubblegum that is scraped off the ground. The colorful shoes even smell like bubblegum. It may seem gross, but it’s still a lot better than stepping in freshly chewed gum!

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