Think you’re doing yourself a favor by choosing sugarless gum? Chew on the chart below, which is based on a host of recent peer-reviewed studies that suggest what you choose to chomp may not be as harmless as advertised. And if fresh breath is what you crave, think about getting your fix with a cup of green tea. A 2008 study at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver found that the healthy polyphenols in green tea kill the bacteria in saliva that cause bad breath. Gum does not.
The Hype: “Chewing sugarless gum is a harmless stress reliever.”
The Facts: Several studies have found that aspartame — one of the most common artificial sweeteners in gum — can overstimulate nerve endings and increase muscle tension, which can trigger headaches often attributed to stress.
The Hype: “You can chew as much sugarless gum as you want.”
The Facts: Research has found that those consuming 15 or more sticks a day of sorbitol-sweetened gum (often found in combination with aspartame or xylitol) may experience chronic diarrhea and abdominal pain. Perhaps that’s no surprise: In higher doses, sorbitol can be used as a laxative.
The Hype: “Sugarless gum can help with weight loss.”
The Facts: An eight-week study of more than 200 overweight or obese adults found that chewing sugarless gum for 90-minute intervals at specific times throughout the day had a moderate impact in diminishing food cravings, but that it had no effect on promoting actual weight loss.
The Hype: “Sugarless gum isn’t harmful to teeth.”
The Facts: Though the artificial-sweetener industry touts xylitol as a healthy sugar-free sweetener because it is derived from natural sources, a team of researchers from three universities found that sugar substitutes in gum, including xylitol and sorbitol, can increase mouth acidity, which in turn erodes tooth enamel.