We have our favourite brand of sugar-free chewing gum to thank for the compliments we received during our last trip to the dentist. It helps to fight the harmful acids from plaque on teeth and it keeps breath minty fresh.
But despite its benefits, there may be a compelling reason to chew less of the sweet stuff, which, let’s face it, we sometimes use as a dessert replacement. A new study identified a nanoparticle (a teeny, tiny particle) in gum called titanium dioxide that prevents the intestine from absorbing nutrients for your body. And it’s not just in gum — it’s also found in things like mayonnaise, chocolate, candy, toothpaste and gum.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
“Titanium oxide is a common food additive and people have been eating a lot of it for a long time — don’t worry, it won’t kill you! — but we were interested in some of the subtle effects, and we think people should know about them,” said Gretchen Mahler, a biomedical engineering assistant professor and one of the study’s authors.
Researchers exposed small intestine cells to different amounts of titanium dioxide and discovered that it impeded the small intestine’s ability to soak up good nutrients and deny access to the bad stuff (like pathogens).
So is it worth it? Let’s just say our breath still smells pretty minty. But if you’d rather play it safe and avoid the stuff, your best bet is to clean up your overall diet — fewer processed foods, less candy and, yes, less gum. At least until we find a brand of gum without titanium dioxide.