I’ll admit that I had a secret agenda when penning this post. One of my biggest pet peeves is loud gum-chewers, especially when that chewing is done at the gym. For some reason, I really let it annoy me. Perhaps I need a hobby.
Long ago, I heard something of an urban legend: If you chew gum, it signals to your brain (and then stomach), that you are eating. When no food enters the stomach, the brain thinks that starvation is occurring – and as a result, the metabolism is lowered and weight gain becomes imminent when food is finally ingested. In fact, I’ve used this theory against the loud gum-chewers in my life, as I often find myself saying, “You know that stick of gum will make you gain weight, right?” It almost always works to disarm the chewer.
Turns out, I haven’t been able to find any support for this urban legend – though some folks tangentially claim that chewing gum does increase hunger. And since sugary sweetness is addictive, it’s possible that chewing gum can make you crave other sweet and potentially unhealthy foods.
Unfortunately for me, most of the research points to chewing gum as a weight loss or weight management tool. In fact, a UK study from 2007 showed that chewing gum:
- Reduced caloric intake. Gum chewers reduced sweet snack intake by 39 calories and salty snacks were decreased by 11 calories.
- Suppresses hunger.
- Decreases stress, elevates moods and increases relaxation.
Other studies confirm the calorie-reduction findings of the UK study, most reporting that caloric intake for gum chewers was reduced by 30 – 50 calories. Moreover, chewing gum burns an extra 11 calories an hour. Woot, woot.
Of course, all of this needs to be taken into perspective; 30 – 50 calories is about a bite of cake, or a few minutes on a treadmill. And most people can make much bigger weight loss strides through an improved diet and exercise program.
It’s also worth noting that excessively chewing sugar-free gums made with sorbitol have been linked to extreme weight loss and diarrhea. A pack of gum a day isn’t a good idea. My mom always says, “Everything in moderation.”
If moderate gum chewing does have an impact on your weight, it appears to be fairly small and possibly negligible. Looks like it’s time to retire the gum-chewing weight gain urban legend once and for all. Damn it.