We hear nutrition advice all over the place — from friends, family or even strangers (I’ve heard the strangest things in elevators!). In this new series, we’re taking on nutritional urban legends and giving you the real story. This week: does chewing gum really help you lose weight?
What the Studies Show
There are numerous studies (many coming from The Wrigley Institute) linking chewing gum to several health benefits:
- Dental Health: Chewing on sugar-free gum containing xylitol (a sugar alcohol) helps reduce tooth decay and gum disease. Xylitol has been shown to decrease bacteria that leads to cavities and plaque build up.
- Cravings: A 2009 study published in Obesity found that folks who chewed gum in the morning ate an average of 68 fewer calories during lunch. Cutting out even a few calories can ultimately help with weight loss.
- Stress Relief: A 2007 study at Tokyo Dental College found that chewing gum at a quicker rate helped decrease stress levels more than chewing slowly. This was because of the hormone coritsol, which helps the body respond to stress.
Chew On This
Chewing gum isn’t directly linked to weight loss, but it can help you reach small goals. During those mid-afternoon sugar cravings, try chomping on gum rather than reaching for a 200-calorie chocolate bar. Or if you find yourself binging late at night (like my husband), keeping your mouth busy with gum may be the answer.
Although I’m not a big fan of sugar-free anything, this is one time where I’d say to choose it over regular varieties. Sugar-free gum contains sugar alcohols like xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol. These are from the same family as sugar, but contain fewer calories (in reality, they’re not totally sugar-free). I’ve had diabetic clients who experienced blood-sugar spikes after eating large amounts of foods containing sugar alcohols! You also don’t want to be popping in a new piece every 10 minutes — overdoing sugar alcohols leads to diarrhea.
The Bottom Line: You won’t see pounds melt away by chewing on gobs of gum. But if you’re feeling stressed or if it helps curb those mid-afternoon munchies, chewing on sugar-free gum may be helpful.
TELL US: Have you used gum as a weight-loss tool?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »