Chewing Gum May Have Health Benefits

People love gum for many reasons mostly because it fixes bad breath while tasting like candy instead of Listerine. But, are you aware of gum’s many benefits?

Trident’s early ads claimed that “four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum.” That doesn’t mean four out of five dentists told people to chew gum; it means they suggested a sugar-free version over sugary gum. The fifth doctor was urging his or her patient to give up gum! In 1976, when they were surveyed, that might have been good advice.

But now, with more research and the advent of xylitol, we know gum can be good for you. Xylitol is an antibacterial compound used as a sweetener in place of sugar in some gums. You need to chew about six pieces of gum containing xylitol per day to see the benefit. That might seem like a lot, but Finland put a public health initiative into action using xylitol-sweetened gum to reduce cavities.

Nowadays, the American Dental Association supports chewing gum, going so far as to put a Seal of Acceptance on some sugar-free gums. Chewing gum can remove plaque, get trapped food out of your teeth and increase saliva production, cleansing your mouth of acid after eating.  The increase in saliva can also ease dry mouth, help digestion and fight acid reflux and heartburn!

Gum has benefits that go beyond the mouth. Chewing gum can soothe anxiety by increasing cerebral blood flow. This also aids alertness, but not in children with ADHD. In a study, people who chewed gum were able to focus longer on tasks that require constant monitoring.

Gum can help you quit smoking as it keeps your mouth busy and nicotine gum goes a step further by chemically reducing your urge to smoke. In that same vein, gum can aid weight loss, giving your mouth something to do instead of snacking. Frequently, we eat because we’re bored or want something to taste. In a study, people who chewed gum ate, on average, 36 calories fewer a day than people who didn’t. Even small changes add up. The study wasn’t using dieters. If your aim is to lose weight, you may be able to cut more calories without a strain. Moreover, chewing gum burns 11 calories an hour.

Perhaps the most bizarre benefit of gum is that it cures earworms. We’ve all had earworms. In fact, 90% of people have one at least once a week. An earworm is when you have a song stuck in your head and just can’t dislodge it. Researchers found that chewing gum can get that song out of your head. What a quick fix!

So, with all this in mind, maybe it’s time to start chewing more gum — as long as it’s sugar-free and sweetened with xylitol.

Banner Image: Milad Mosapoor, Wikimedia

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