People chew gum for a myriad of reasons: to curb bad breath when they’ve forgotten to brush (eep!), to encourage some focus, and to prevent unhealthy snacking. Those first two are legit, but will chewing gum stop you from binge-eating? WH investigates.
Reaching for a stick of gum to curb your cravings may do more harm than good: Chewing minty gum before a meal can actually set you up to make less nutritious food choices, according to a new study in the journal Eating Behaviours.
Researchers from the University at Buffalo wanted to know if there was any truth to the commonly held conception that chewing gum can reduce hunger and help you lose weight. In their first experiment, 44 participants each went through three sessions: One where they chewed minty gum, one where they chewed fruity gum, and one where they didn’t chew any gum.
After each session, they filled out a survey and played games that rewarded them with either healthy or unhealthy foods (they were free to choose which game to play). On average, participants reported a decrease in hunger after chewing gum.
The problem: After chewing the minty gum, they ate smaller amounts of the healthy foods – but still ate the same amount of junk foods as they had after chewing the fruity gum or no gum at all. So that stick of spearmint might curb your hunger, but it’ll also make you pick a bag of chips over an orange.
In the second experiment, 54 participants were given food diaries to keep for three weeks. For two of those weeks, they were told to chew gum before every single snack, meal, and drink they had (except for kilojoule-free drinks, like water or black coffee). One week they chewed Eclipse mint gum, and the other week they chewed Nutratrim mint gum, which is marketed as a diet supplement. Surprisingly, people ate fewer snacks or meals but consumed more kilojoules per meal during both gum-chewing weeks. They also took in much fewer nutrients during those weeks, since they weren’t snacking on fruits and veggies as much. Overall, the total kilojoules for each week stayed about the same, which pretty much debunks the chewing gum myth – not to mention the claims attached to the weight-loss gum.
The simple reason: Mint flavouring doesn’t mix well with most fruits and vegetables, says study co-author Christine Swoboda. Gum may help you cut down on snacking, but it can also prevent you from choosing healthy foods, says Swoboda. Plus, snacking isn’t exactly a sin – a handful of almonds throughout the day can give you extra nutrients and help keep you from overeating during meals.
The bottom line: Don’t rely on a gum to help you lose weight!