Chewing Gum: Deadly, or Merely Just Rude?

We're still not sure whether it loses its flavor on the bedpost over night, but we're pretty sure chewing gum is frowned upon in most polite company. That hasn't stopped it from becoming a $19 billion industry, however. In fact, 1.74 trillion sticks are sold each year. So does it just look bad, or is it actually bad for you, as well?

There is no question that chewing gum contains plenty of bad chemicals; the question is whether it contains them in any sufficient quantity that you should be worried, and how closely you think experimentation on rats correlates to humans.

For example, gum contains titanium dioxide to give it a smooth texture, and animal studies have connected high doses of that chemical to nervous system and organ damage in rats. Officially, the jury is still out on its affect among humans.

BHT is used to keep many foods, not just chewing gum, from going bad, but high doses may give you cancer or prevent it, depending on which study you want to heed. Either way, you would need to consume a lot of it to have any effect, good or bad.

Chewing gum has aspartame up the yin-yang, and there is no probably no more controversial – or widely used – artificial sweetener to be found today. Although the internet is pretty sure that aspartame is The Devil, science is not quite so certain. One of the largest reviews of aspartame studies concluded that "it is clear that aspartame is safe, and there are no unresolved questions regarding its safety under conditions of intended use." That is, don't overdo it.

In its favor, chewing gum is a great stress reliever, particularly as relates to academic work. The science here revolves not around the gum itself, but the act of chewing, which reduces the levels of cortisol and other such stress hormones.

Chewing gum is also credited with boosting short-term memory. But although it's been tracked and tested, science still isn't sure why gum gooses your memory.

If you do decide not to kick your chewing gum habit, societal mores be damned, than we urge you to consider sugar free gum. When you do, make sure you choose a brand that contains the sugar alcohol xylitol. This chemical actually works against tooth decay by preventing the growth of the bacteria that causes it by up to 75 percent.