It really is an odd substance when you think about it. Flavoured rubber that we don’t even swallow. But if you need a quick breath freshener before an interview or (if you are very lucky) a hot date, then it seems pretty harmless and pretty useful. This of course, ignores the problem of chewing gum on your clothes or worse still, in your hair.
There are a number of websites: www.foodmatters.tv, hotbedinfo.com, www.collective-evolution.com, www.medicaldaily.com and others that list chewing gum as a “major carcinogen” (cancer causing substance) which contains “a number of harmful ingredients”.
Let’s get one thing straight. If chewing gum was really a major carcinogen, would governments and Food Standards Agencies really allow it to be sold? Of course not.
The following ingredients are listed as harmful on the websites: Aspartame (which has been dealt with already in this blog), titanium dioxide and BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene).
Titanium dioxide is (according to one website) so cancerous, “that even skin contact is enough to cause cancer”. In 2010, a US study conducted showed that Titanium Dioxide cannot penetrate skin never mind cause cancer there.
These websites also reference studies that prove that Titanium Dioxide is a carcinogen. These studies, however, referred only to inhaled Titanium Dioxide particles, rather than Titanium Dioxide as a component of chewing gum in which it is harmless.
BHT has been the subject of debate amongst scientists for many years with evidence supporting both sides. It is listed as a group 3 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research For Cancer. This puts it on par with caffiene, printer ink and chlorinated water as “Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans”.
The most recent major study conducted on chewing gum as a cause of cancer was published in 2004. It found chewing gum to be harmless, with no links or trends shown
In fact, some studies have even argued that chewing gum may help patients who have been treated for cancer. Chewing gum can help to stimulate saliva production in the body, a form of treatment of the dry mouth that can accompany radiotherapy in patients with mouth and neck cancers.
Verdict: Don’t believe everything you read online, chew away to your heart’s content!