Wendyl Wants to Know: By gum, no sugar but plenty of sweeteners
Most kids like to chew chewing gum. Dentists would prefer they chewed sugarfree chewing gum to prevent tooth decay. This product is sugarfree, using a cocktail of nine artificial and natural sweeteners to achieve it. The problem with sweeteners is that many of them may act as a laxative or cause gastric upsets if eaten to excess and some of them have nasty studies involving rats and cancer associated with them. This gum has an appealing combination of pink, green and yellow which the adults and children in my house found hard to resist. Let's see what's in it.
Mentos Aqua Kiss 3D Sugarfree Gum - $2.29 for 29g.
Sweetener (Mannitol) This has 70 per cent the sweetness of sugar and is found mainly in plants and mostly extracted from seaweed. It is used as a texturiser in chewing gum and it doesn't increase blood glucose levels so is often used as a sweetener for diabetics. It also has a low glycemic index. If you consume a lot it may have a laxative effect.
Maltitol, Maltitol syrup These are sugar alcohols which come from maltose. They have 90 per cent the sweetness of sugar but do not contain calories and do not promote tooth decay. They also has a laxative effect if you eat a lot. One study of rats observed changes in the adrenal gland but these were not cause for concern.
Xylitol This is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol from fruit and vegetable fibres. It doesn't ferment in the mouth so is better for your teeth and it has been reported that it can reduce cavities. It will also have a laxative effect if you eat too much.
Sorbitol This alcohol found in fruit and seaweed is often used as a sugar substitute for diabetics. If consumed to excess it can cause diarrhoea and gastrointestinal disturbances. Eating as little as 10g can cause diarrhoea in some children. Each piece of this gum only has .06g so even if a child ate all 14 in the packet they should be okay.
Erythitol This is a sugar alcohol naturally found in some fruits and fermented foods, although industrially it is taken from yeast. It is 60 to 70 per cent as sweet as table sugar but has no calories, does not affect blood sugar and does not cause tooth decay. It doesn't cause gastric side effects.
Aspartame This artificial sweetener, also known as NutraSweet, is a compound prepared from aspartic acid and phenylalanine and about 200 times sweeter than sugar. There have been objections that it might cause brain damage and that in soft drinks it deteriorates into toxic levels of methyl alcohol under storage conditions. Neither claim was accepted and it has been approved as a sweetener since 1981. Aspartame must be avoided by those with the genetic condition phenylketonuria.
Sucralose This is otherwise known as Splenda, 600 times sweeter than sugar and has no calories. It is made from sugar and was approved for use in 1998.
AcesulfameK Acesulphame potassium is a chemical that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Its approval for use in 1988 was controversial as the Centre for Science in the Public Interest said that animals fed this in two different studies suffered more tumours than others that did not receive the compound. The Food and Drug Administration said four long-term animal studies in dogs, mice and rats had not shown any toxic effects and approved its use.
Gum base It is hard to tell what is used as the base for this chewing gum and apparently gum bases are trade secrets. Most gum bases will have elastomers, resins, waxes, fats, emulsifiers, fillers and antioxidants in them.
Reconstituted fruit juices (watermelon, pineapple, melon)[3 per cent] I'm very surprised to see some fruit juice is included. The type of melon is not specified but on the packaging it looks like rockmelon. At 3 per cent that means each 2.1g piece of gum has 0.06g of fruit juice. I doubt this would flavour it so perhaps it's here for its feel-good factor.
Acidity regulators (malic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid) All three acids are naturally occurring and will be in here to regulate the acidity but also give the very acidic sour taste the gum has.
Flavours and flavourings These will be artificial flavours to mimic the taste of pineapple, watermelon and melon.
Hydrogenated vegetable oil Oil which has been made solid.
Thickener (Gum Arabic) Acacia gum comes from the sap of the Acacia tree.
Gelatine This is traditionally a byproduct of the soap-making industry and will be in here as a humectant which means it helps the product retain water.
Emulsifiers (soya lecithin, sucrose esthers of fatty acids) Soy lecithin occurs in animal and plant tissues, in this case soya beans. Sucrose esthers of fatty acids are derived from sucrose and edible tallow which is rendered beef or mutton fat. Both are in this product to keep oils and waters mixed together.
Colours (curcumin, carotenes, brilliant blue FCF) Curcumin is a natural orange/yellow colour taken from turmeric, carotenes are yellow colours found in carrots, butter and egg yolks and brilliant blue FCF has a chequered past. It is a synthetic coal tar dye which is used to colour foods shades of green. Because of concerns it is a carcinogen it was banned in Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway but that ban has been lifted. It is banned in Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Trinidad and Turkey.
Antioxidant (butylated hydroxyanisole) This ingredient otherwise known as BHA will be in the gum to preserve it but this is a controversial ingredient. Some studies have shown evidence of cancer when it is given to animals in high doses but low levels in humans show no significant increase in cancer risk. The State of California has, however, listed it as a carcinogen.
It's hard to believe a bit of chewing gum can contain a massive 24 ingredients including nine sweeteners. Many dentists have written to me about previous statements regarding artificial sweeteners and said it is better for children to eat them than sugar which is a big problem in tooth decay. Personally I would monitor the frequency this gum is consumed at. Occasional treat is about right and certainly not a whole packet in one day. If you're consuming sugarfree gum as a breath freshener then popping an old fashioned mint into your mouth instead is my preference.
Highlights * A cocktail of nine artificial and natural sweeteners to make it sugarfree. * Contains brilliant blue FCF which has been banned in several countries. * Has several ingredients which can act as laxatives if too much is consumed. * Contains an antioxidant which is listed in California as a carcinogen.