While we have mostly seen the reports from chewing gum companies offering sugar free alternatives to their predecessors, claiming that their product helps fight cavities and promotes good oral health. Well turns out they were correct! Not only that but other positive side effects are being seen in other areas of the body such as the stomach and brain.
“Take that gum out of your mouth!” my loving but vociferous
Italian grandmother (is there any other kind?) told my five-year-old
self. “It’s a dirty habit!” But despite the adult warnings that gum
would stay in my stomach for seven years if I swallowed it, and despite
my grandmother’s chidings, chomping on gum is a habit I never abandoned.
To this day, my OCD does not even allow me out of the house without a
pack of gum. After some investigation of the habit, I realized that
although my grandmother wasn’t wrong about much, she had missed the mark
on this one.
As it turns out, chewing gum can provide a myriad of health
benefits for not only the mouth, but also the mind. Dentists approve of
the stuff, too: “Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum
for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay,” according
to the American Dental Association (ADA).
But let’s rewind a bit: when and where did the illogical
human behavior of chewing non-food items begin? While it’s often thought
of a modern habit, there is evidence that chewing gum use dates back
thousands of years, and across many cultures. Ancient Europeans, Greeks,
Aztecs, Mayans, and American Indians all had their own versions of
chewing gum. These primordial gums were often made of tree barks, saps,
and resins. Modern gum burst onto the scene in the 1860s as “chicle” in
Mexico, and a hundred years later scientists figured out how to make
synthetic gum bases, which were essentially forms of plastic. And the
gum available in today’s supermarket checkout line is nothing more than
artificially sweetened and flavored rubber. Tastes better than it