Bad for you? Chewing gum.

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Most modern chewing gum is made of gum base, sweeteners, and food coloring. Glee Gum is the only US company still using chicle as a base. Artificial sweeteners are now used, and medicated gum can help with smoking cessation. The US military distributes gum to soldiers for stress relief, and Recaldent gum fights tooth decay. Acetic acid ethenyl ester, found in some gum, is under investigation by Health Canada. Chewing gum is not indigestible and is eliminated from the body like regular food.

A combination of gum, sweeteners, and food coloring is what makes up the majority of modern chewing gum sold today. In the past, most chewing gum manufacturers used synthetic gum or “chicle” as a base, a resin from rainforest trees. Today, however, the Glee Glum company claims to be the only remaining U.S. gum maker still using chicle as a base for gum.

Before most brands of gum used sugar substitutes, excessive chewing of gum was not considered good for oral health. Today, most brands of chewing gum use artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose, and they don’t pose the same threat to the oral cavity as oral hygiene. Meanwhile, medicated chewing gum, such as nicotine gum, may provide the health benefit of assisting the chewer in smoking cessation; however it can also become unhealthy if it is overused or addictive in itself.

The US military has for decades distributed chewing gum directly to its soldiers, believing that chewing gum improves concentration and relieves stress. Additionally, the New Zealand Defense Force has introduced a chewing gum called Recaldent into their distributed rations, as the gum has been shown to fight tooth decay.

In 2008, an article published by Canwest News reported that acetic acid ethenyl ester, a common substance found in chewing gum, was under investigation by Health Canada and may soon be labeled toxic by the Canadian federal government. Also known as vinyl acetate, the substance is often used as a flavoring agent in chewing gum and was found to potentially cause cancer in laboratory mice in a study conducted by an international agency. Vinyl acetate is also used to make deodorants, perfumes, paints and other products.

A common myth regarding the potential health risks of chewing gum is that it takes several years to digest. Although chewing gum is often labeled “indigestible,” because it resists the body’s natural efforts to digest food, it is eliminated from the body in the same manner and in the same amount of time as regular food.

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