What Exactly is Chewing Gum?

You can chew it but it never breaks down. You can blow bubbles with it. You can swallow it and essentially guarantee it comes out the other end unscathed by the digestive tract so chewing gum definitely can’t be considered a food item. So, what exactly is it?

Originally chewing gum was made from the latex sap known as chicle of a tree called the sapodilla tree from Central America. Incidentally, Glee Gum seems to be the only remaining chewing gum manufacturer that uses this natural substance as the base for its gum.

Gum base is the main ingredient in chewing gum. While it is listed on ingredient lists of chewing gum packages, it is not technically an ingredient itself. Instead, it can comprise one or more other ingredients, which include: paraffin wax (a petroleum product), lanolin, beeswax or synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber is made from either polyethylene or polyvinyl acetate. I know, this is starting to be a real mouthful. Polyethylene is usually used in the manufacture of plastic. The chemical industry’s own material safety data sheets recommend keeping the substance away from food or beverages, yet some chewing gum manufacturers use it as the base for their gum. Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) is better known as wood glue or carpenter’s glue, which the material safety data sheet of the chemical industry indicates may be harmful if swallowed.

You may be thinking that you haven’t noticed any of these ingredients on the package label of your chewing gum. Instead, any of the above ingredients can be used in “gum base,” considered a trade secret, meaning that manufacturers of chewing gum are not legally required to disclose the actual ingredients it’s made from. So, you may actually be chewing a blend of petroleum products mixed with wood glue, with some artificial or “natural” sweeteners and flavors thrown in to make it more appealing.

Additionally, many chewing gums also contain stearic acid—a common softening agent used in chewing gum. This chemical is actually derived from either pigs, cows, sheep, dogs or cats.

So, how can you have your gum and chew it too? Stick to gum made with chicle or sapodilla tree sap and list the exact sources of any sweeteners and flavors used.

Related
What Exactly are Natural Flavors in Halloween Candy?
The Nasty Ingredient Lurking in Your Bread
How Your Diet May Be Shrinking Your Brain

 

160 comments

Paulo Reeson
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo R3 months ago

ty

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Julie P
Julie Pham1 years ago

Thanks

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Denise D.
Denise D2 years ago

Ewww! I knew most gum was made from plastic base, but didn't know exactly what all that entailed. Thanks so much for sharing this article. No more gum for me!

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Nina S.
Nina S2 years ago

tyfs

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Virginia Belder
Virginia Belder3 years ago

ty

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

I haven't chewed gum in years. It makes my jaws hurt. But I'm not surprised it's not good for you. Is anything now?

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Christie C.
Christie C3 years ago

I quit gum a long time ago when they all started using aspartame. I'm not surprised to learn that these companies are using other toxic chemicals.

What is surprising is how willingly we accept new products and make them a daily part of our lives, never finding out until years later what is used in them, how they're made, or what damage they may cause to us and our environment.

Being more critical of what is sold to us would bring a lot of positive change to our world :)

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