You seem them at checkout stands, in vending machines and on nearly every store shelf, the dozens of brands promising long-lasting flavors of gum that will leave your breath smelling minty fresh. But can these thin chewy strips be filled with health risks?
Chewing gum manufacturers have been using an ingredient called titanium dioxide in a nanoparticle form for many years. This ingredient poses serious health risks, especially for your gut health, and is the number one reason to avoid chewing gum.
Titanium dioxide, generally recognized to be safe by the Food and Drug Administration, is often used in nanoparticle form to create white pigmentation in paints, plastics, and gum. It can also be found in numerous foods, such as candies, powdered sugar (donuts) and bread. While it can be found on store shelves and is considered safe, scientists have begun to question its health effects.
According to a 2017 study published in the journal Nanolmpact, research showed that nano-titanium oxide ingredients like titanium dioxide can severely impact gut health. Researchers exposed small intestinal cells to a meal’s worth of nanoparticles over four hours (acute exposure) and three meals’ worth over five days (chronic exposure).
Researchers found chronic exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles in the diet had these effects:
- Weakened the intestinal barrier
- Slowed down metabolism
- Triggered inflammation
- Weakened the gut’s defense against pathogens
- Blocked nutrient absorption of key nutrients like iron, zinc and fatty acids
These nanoparticles blunted the effectiveness of the small intestines’ microvilli. Microvilli are tiny projections that protrude off of small intestine cells and absorb the nutrients our bodies need to survive.
Oftentimes people are exposed to titanium dioxide through the use of toothpaste, and it can also used to create a smoother texture in chocolates and to create a brighter appearance in skim milk.
In 2012, Arizona State University found that titanium dioxide nanoparticles were found in 5 percent of products tested, which included Twinkies and mayonnaise samples. Due to public pressure, Dunkin’ Donuts stopped using nano-titanium dioxide in its donuts’ powdered sugar in 2015.
“To avoid foods rich in titanium oxide nanoparticles you should avoid processed foods, and especially candy. That is where you see a lot of nanoparticles,” said Gretchen Mahler, PhD, study co-author and assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
In addition to the potential risks of titanium dioxide exposure, there are several other reason to stop chewing gum.
Gum Chewing Increases Migraines and Tension Headaches
For children and adolescents who frequently experience severe migraines and tension headaches, the problem might be chewing gum. According to a small study published in Pediatric Neurology, research discovered that nixing gum led to significant improvement in 26 out of 30 adolescents in the study. Surprisingly, 19 of them experienced complete headache resolution. The solution? No more gum!
Sinister Sweeteners Can Have Negative Health Effects
Various chewing gum companies turn to ingredients like aspartame, sorbitol, high fructose corn syrup, acesulfame K, sucralose, and xylitol. Some go as far as using multiple fake sweeteners in a single gum product. These ingredients are linked to serious health issues such as tooth decay, liver fat buildup, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, leukemia, lymphoma, kidney tumors and more. Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K, is one of the most common artificial sweeteners detected in breast milk and is also linked to thyroid dysfunction.
Xylitol and sorbitol may seem more natural, but these processed sugar alcohols are not absorbed well by the body and can cause an allergic reaction in those who have a sensitivity to it. Side effects can also include bloating gas, cramping, and diarrhea. Not to mention, they also has a pronounced laxative effect that is actually part of the chemical makeup of many over-the-counter laxatives.